Western Massachusetts band Within the Ruins has come a long way from their massive, rhythmic metal albums of the early 2000s. With each new record they’ve released, the group has made strides in the genre, transforming a brutal deathcore atmosphere into melodic and highly technical progressive metal.
Their most recent release, “Halfway Human,” sees the band exploring unfamiliar territory with old techniques to forge an album that, while true to style, incorporates the risks and experiments they’ve taken throughout their musical career.
The follow-up to 2014’s “Phenomena,” an album that showcased WTR’s technicality, “Halfway Human” is a record that captures the band’s journey to consistently outdo themselves with each release. With four full-length albums and three EPs under their belt, one would assume any more would be a rehash of previous efforts, but this newest addition shows that the band took their time to create songs that are wholly unique from the band’s previous work.
WTR is known for riffs of its guitarist, Joe Cocchi, that sound almost computer-generated at times, and their drummer’s (known as “Drummer”) technique that follows the complex guitar melodies with a flurry of polyrhythms.
This style has defined WTR’s sound; any listener can hear one of the group’s tracks and immediately know it’s them. Typically, once a group is aware of their style, the albums stagnate — however WTR’s introduction of clean vocals into their music has forced the group to redefine their songwriting to fit melodies sung by their new bassist, Paolo Galang, who joined the band in 2015.
Upon learning that “Halfway Human” would feature clean vocals in addition to death growls I became skeptical, and expected an album that appeals to more mainstream fans, like those of Blessthefall or As I Lay Dying. In other words, I was under the impression that WTR was beginning to sell out.
It was a pleasant surprise and relief to find that WTR used clean vocals in the most tasteful of ways, to enhance a song rather than have the vocals be the basis of the song. The opening track “Shape-Shifter” and the song “Sky Splitter” are just two examples that exemplify WTR’s new direction.
In sound and riffs, “Halfway Human” seems to be the spiritual successor to WTR’s 2013 release “Elite,” which had aggressive song structure and limited amounts of melodic runs, the latter of which characterized the cuts on “Phenomena.”
On “Halfway Human,” WTR returns with the same aggression, playing up the djent elements in their breakdowns, and throws in Cocchi’s videogame-esque melodies to create an album that is not only brutal, but tasteful.
“Halfway Human” is an album sure to please old fans and new fans alike. Metalheads rejoice.
Fin Martinez is the culture editor and resident metalhead at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @FinMartinez.