Coke or Pepsi?
The future or the past?
Artificial intelligence all the way, or Artificial Intelligence no way?
The first question is irrelevant here. But I just wanted to get you started.
Perhaps when you listen to Centuries of Decay’s self-titled album, you will think of the second two questions. The album generally sounds like a tale of different battles taking place in different time periods, either in history or in the future. Humans versus Machines becomes relevant in some of these songs, including “Asylum.” (Take a listen—see if you agree.)
Throughout the album, the grinding dirty vocals (henceforth referred to as the dirties) are a rusted, metallic yelling- except when they aren’t. That’s when the demonic, wispy growls make their entrance. Check it out in “Asylum.” (Can you tell what my favorite song off the album is?)
But most importantly, in listening to this album, there’s always a battle of sounds either between or within songs; for one, you’ll hear the dramatically different speeds between each song: either breakneck-fast or turtle-slow. For instance, “Demise” starts out at a slugging pace and shifts to the speed of a hellbent axe murderer (… yeah, there’s that…) about one-third of the way through the song, marking such a huge contrast. With that, we’re sunk deep into a feeling of calm and then chaos, and then – psych, more chaos. Not only is there a battle between speeds, but there’s also so many songs that point to an intense confrontation between machines and humans, and it’s a hell of a ride. On that note, there’s even some motif of life versus death. Seriously—just listen to the god-like vocals (no literally; like Zeus or Poseidon or some shit) two-thirds of the way through “Demise”, and then listen to the demonic gritty growls in “Asylum.” Devils; gods. Life; death. What’s the symbolism here? This feels like fucking English class.
And not only is the album a battle between sound, but it’s a battle between atmospheres. If this album were a color, it’d be a sepia-brown or steel-gray, the first denoting the dirtied landscapes of old battles you can almost see, and the second denoting the grinding cogs of something more modern (or futuristic) in battle.
So, what’ll it be—fast or slow?
Metal cogs or demonic wisps?
Sepia fog or rusted gray?
As you can see from all this question-asking, there’s a lot of character to this album. The theme of battles throughout time is so well-done that I don’t know what else to say. It’s too damn clear!
On the other hand though, there are a few fundamental qualities the album is lacking.
One: You might not believe it, but the album—progressive metal, mind you—is rather mechanical and formulaic. (I never thought I’d say that about a progressive metal band album.) In trying to surprise us with contrast, the whole album seems pretty predictable. As in, for the most part, the music doesn’t stray from a steady beat of common time signatures—a bit strange for a progressive metal band. I’m leaning toward saying that Centuries of Decay’s self-titled album is the Great Value™ version of a progressive Gojira: it is quite bland and unsurprising.
Two: Oddly enough, given all the atmosphere this album is packed with, I don’t really feel any emotion at all when listening to each song. Yes, certain songs make it clear that I’m supposed to believe I’m witnessing a metaphysical and -phorical battle, but each song lacks a certain tune or melody. There’s simply no melody that would get the song to conjure an emotion in my brain, or have the song stuck in my head. There’s nothing that convinces me that a song is meaningfully happy, or importantly sad, or—at the root of it—worth emotionally investing in. Personally, this void of emotion struck me the most, more than any other shortcoming.
Three: I just touched upon this, but essentially, the album isn’t catchy and memorable—it did not provide songs that would stick in my head. It didn’t really create anything sticky that resonates. As in, I won’t find myself coming away from today with a song bouncing around in my head, because I can’t exactly remember each one. And the reason is that there’s no melody or emotion that presents itself as a base—in one ear, right out the other. The album is a beautiful flower that sets a nice scene, but has no roots, and so it just floats away.
So, yes, Centuries of Decay is a master of atmosphere, but unfortunately, I don’t know if their self-titled album really has any lasting impact on my metal repertoire. I’m coming in with just enough fodder to hope for more, but I’m leaving without any of the prize I came for. Maybe in the future, Centuries of Decay will be able to improve their sound and finally stick their roots into the battle-bloodied ground. I’m looking for that moment. (Ruth Xing)
For Fans Of diluted versions of the following: Enslaved, Opeth, Gojira, Isis, Strapping Young Lad