Progressive metalcore heavyweights, Born of Osiris, are famous for having Jason Richardson as their lead guitarist on 2011’s The Discovery LP and for graduating from the same high school in Illinois as members of Veil of Maya and Oceano. Misha Mansoor of Periphery produced their first demo and Tosin Abasi helped out as a touring guitarist in the early days. Their output over the years is just as impressive. 2019’s The Simulation was an excellent mini-album that promised a sequel but disappeared from the band’s plans prior to the Covid-19 lockdown. Instead, guitarist, Lee McKinney, switched Nick Rossi from bass to guitar, composed another eight songs for the next Born of Osiris record after this one, and wrote two further solo albums. Clearly, this band do not experience writer’s block, but is the music as dynamic as their work ethic?
If you haven’t heard Born of Osiris, brace yourself for a technical frenzy of syncopated metalcore riffs, Meshuggah aggression and pulsating synthesisers. The dual vocal attack of Ronnie Canizaro (face-melting screams) and Joe Buras (melodic rock voice) is as effective as ever on opener, ‘Poster Child’, with McKinney and Rossi working their finest Gojira rhythms into the mix and treating us to a monstrous breakdown. Yes, they chug their guitars like power tools and love the binary riffs, but they also end the song with a surprise Massive Attack wind down of soothing saxophone and electronic beats. Lead single, ‘White Nile’, retains this momentum with a hysterical mix of screaming vocals and low-tuned grooves. This is Born of Osiris at their best with chunky guitars, precise fretwork, tasteful soloing and tight drum work from the excellent, Cameron Losch.
It’s now something of a cliché for deathcore and metalcore bands to thicken their sound with swirling synthesisers, as evidenced by the pointless window dressing on the latest Architects album. But the Illinois quintet have always harnessed the electronic element of their sound, and they use it with great confidence among the metallic guitars. ‘Waves’ is a wonderful juxtaposition of the two and offers the finest chorus of the album. “Let it unfold,” cries Buras as a nod for Canizaro to complete the stanza with a roar of “Open your heart and let the truth be told/ Rewrite the past and let the truth be known.” Getting this song out of your head will be your hardest challenge in the week ahead, but you’ll curse yourself for not remembering the excellent key change in ‘Threat of Your Presence’. (How does it go, again?)
There’s always a danger that the guitarists of Born of Osiris will pepper their songs with too many Fear Factory chugs, and the fact they leave it until track eight to vary their approach is a risk that threatens to become formulaic. Fortunately, ‘Crossface’, is an instant classic that looks to Tesseract’s Acle Kahney for rhythmic inspiration and ends with a cool Depeche Mode outro. On ‘You Are the Narrative’ they veer towards the down-tuned mathcore/tech metal of Periphery and Veil of Maya and unearth an abundance of melodies among the carnage. By this time Canizaro is close to a nervous breakdown. He and Buras co-wrote the lyrics, but the themes here are neurotic. The message seems to be that those you love are capable of treachery. Ruminations on death are never far away. Or so it appears. The lyrics are better than average and have the ability for multiple interpretations depending on your own state of mind.
The weaknesses here are few but poignant enough to warrant a discussion. ‘Oathbreaker’ and ‘Love Story’ are fillers in the context of the overall record but have more merit when isolated as individual cuts. At times you want Born of Osiris to be more like Fallujah and Fallujah to be more like Born of Osiris, but the two of them prefer to stick to what they know best. They could have cut at least three songs from this outing and saved them for a future EP, but you can say that for just about every band in the djent/progressive metalcore genre.
Perhaps the strongest aspect of Angel or Alien is that you can enjoy it on random play, which is most unusual for a prog metal album. If we’re measuring this by the genre highpoints, then, it falls short of Periphery’s Juggernaut Alpha/Omega but can rival anything in the Erra back catalogue. The first listen does not do it justice, but the third or fourth will reveal the true quality of this record.
Release Date: 02/07/2021
Record Label: Sumerian Records
Standout tracks: White Nile, Cross Face, You are the Narrative
Suggested Further Listening: Erra – Erra (2021), Periphery – Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal (2012), Veil of Maya – Matriarch (2015)