Allegaeon - _Formshifter_
(Metal Blade, 2012)
by: Aly Hassab El Naby (7 out of 10)
A patient scan through the list of albums that I have reviewed during my three year tenure here at Chronicles of Chaos will indicate that I don't believe in 10s. As far as I'm concerned, the perfect 10 out of 10 album doesn't exist. Grading an album is actually one of the toughest things about coming up with a review, because numbers tend to cast things in stone. Everyone has a different set of variables that can make or break an album. Coherence and homogeneity are very important in my point of view, but I feel I must admit that I've stumbled upon a challenger to this point of view.

Allow me to present _Formshifter_, the second album by Colorado's Allegaeon (pronounced uh-lee-juhn). It's a good album that doesn't really fare that well in terms of consistency. Over its fifty-two minute duration, the quality of the tracks keeps increasing, and the initial disillusion resulting from the first three tracks would seem like a year old inconvenience. The momentum starts to seriously pile up undeniably with the monstrous seven minute "Iconic Image", which will throw a beautiful acoustic segment on you out of nowhere. This one is quite the turning point, and its successors "Twelve" and "The Azrael Trigger" capitalize on its impact and elevate the album even further.

This kind of modern death metal that borders on the technical at some points and on the melodic at others isn't an auditory revelation, which is why I was initially put off by _Formshifter_. But as I came back to it a few more times, some moments started to shine, but most of them came after the first sixteen minutes. The guitar solo on "Twelve" and the sharp transitions and brilliant drum beat at the end of "Formshifter" are some of those moments. The melodic accessibility of "From the Stars Death Came" is one the signs of Allegaeon's wide range of influences because of its hint of Gothenburg-style melodic death.

Maybe the vocals are what concern me the most. Because unlike the compositional gradient exhibited through this album, the vocals seemed stuck in that half-scream-half-growl technique without mixing things up a lot. Vocal versatility can seriously upgrade any album, whether you're a vocals aficionado or not. Another thing that bummed me out a bit is how flat the bottom section of the album sounded. The bass and the rhythm sections seemed to lack the kind of punch needed to provide the best possible support for the solos and melodies. All in all, _Formshifter_ is an interesting listen, with lots of great ideas that can entice most death metal fans who are always looking for progress. But if you're looking for an album that can be the main focus of a conversation, I'd suggest you look elsewhere.


(article published 7/10/2012)

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