Dealing with Dirt

Feb. 17, 2016


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Burials, digging, literal deaths in that past year:  in a sad way, it's like all of these dirt references were leading to this moment.  I am in no way making light of the death of Justin Lowe, former (massively talented) guitar player for the band.  But in light of this tragic incident, the band's name rings truer than ever.  The group has spent the last several years with their friend an bandmate recording and touring only to have him suddenly snatched from this world well before his time.  But with Dig Deep, the word that most comes to mind is "perserverence."

The opening three tracks, beginning with "Collapse" are some of the angriest and heaviest peices of music I have heard from the group to date.  Technical, djenty riffs rip through the speakers with a sense of immediacy and violence.  The only thing perhaps more righteous in their fury are the vocals; which tear through the vocal chords bypassing the body straight from the soul.  The metalcore roots have always been firm with After the Burial, but their level of technical showmanship and sheer intensity always led me to feel they would be more appropriate on stage along Meshuggah than Killswitch Engage.

Dig Deep doesn't really pull any new punches, but it does feel like a culmination of everything the band has worked towards with their signature sound.  The proggy heaviness of Rareform pours through on tracks like the wrecking ball that is "Mire," the production shows a major improvement from the fun but overly compressed Wolves Within, and the group's penchant for pulling directly at the heartstrings with carefully-implemented melodic guitar sections a la In Dreams is perhaps more balanced than ever.  This latter point rears its head first on the sorrowful "Deluge," but permeated my very being with "Laurentian Ghosts."

And to the metalcore skeptics out there, one thing I have always loved about this group is their ability to make me feel empowered.  "Ometh" for many years has been all I needed to pull myself out of even the deepest of funk and just feel a complete bodily catharsis.  After the Burial make me feel like I can do anything, and they do so in a way that I never find cheesey or insincere unlike with a lot of other metalcore groups out there.  They combine riffs that mix joy, sadness, and rage all into one amazing package, back it with highly competent, technical work on the drums, and scream their lungs out.  No clean singing, but you might as well be serenading me from below my window.

In summary, After the Burial truly have "dug deep" to make this album happen.  Despite - and perhaps because of - all the hardship and heartbreak, Dig Deep is an impressive statement about how life continues even in the wake of tragedy.  I think about a great quote I keep on my wall from Henry Rollins: "Scar tissue is stronger than regular tissue.  Realize the strength, move on."  Powerful words from a man who had his friend murdered a few feet away.  It seems that After the Burial are prepared to do the same.  But as with the cover, they'll leave a light burning for him.