Rarely does a death metal act succeed in spooking a seasoned critic like me, but I have to say there was truly something unsettling about Iwatchedherdie.'s The Ill Effects of Hope. Midway through the seven-song disc I just felt vaguely disturbed by the imagery, the haunting keyboards, the crushing guitars, and singer Joey Milosevich's vicious wretch.
Good job, gentleman.
First, Iwatchedherdie. is a pretty kickass name for a death metal band, and the cover art, which looks to me like a girl getting kidnapped, is very well done. It was like the Blair Witch Project: you know it's a hoax, but its sooo easy to suspend disbelief... did these (mostly) teenage kids from (mostly) Tempe and Chandler really watch some girl die?!
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Then there's the epic introduction to "The Messenger's Collapse," which doesn't reveal the band's true, deathly and not-at-all-prog, intent until you're hooked. It's perfect timing, the sort that keeps people who aren't fans of the insular genre from tuning out when they hear a "singer" belting out indecipherable lyrics in a guttaral growl. By the end of the song they've sunk in to a trudge riff-like classic metal moment, and there's a good chance most listeners will still be on board.
There's plenty here for metal purists, too. "Murderous Antic Evoked" starts out with thrashy guitar before an all-out machine gun assault of drum, guarenteed to pummel any head in to banging, comes in. "A Horizen for Judas" almost sounds like a lo-fi hardcore song at times and has the album's best riffs, including a few tricks right out of the Judas Priest playbook. By that time, I'm a little sick of the growling, but death metal fans won't be, and that's all Iwatchedherdie. needs. Unfortunately, the songs also has one of those heinous spoken word overdubs that I've grown to loathe in post-Tool metal, but it's over quickly enough, and we're treated to one more soaring guitar solo.
And I was still listening at that point -- even if I was a little spooked.