Artist Of The Week - Anchor & Braille

It's been about three years since we've gotten an album from Anchor & Braille, the indie side project of Anberlin's Stephen Christian, but this week, on July 31st, the band's sophomore album will be released. The Quiet Life is a collection of haunting melodies and catchy percussion, certainly a maturation of sound since 2009's Felt. The Quiet Life is available now in stores and online through Tooth & Nail Records.


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Volition [+digital booklet]

Artist: As Hell Retreats
Album: Volition
Release Date: July 26, 2011
Label: Ain't No Grave Records

Life is not always full of joy and happiness. That being said, As Hell Retreats have created Volition, a concept album about the life of a boy, which incorporates themes of doubt, death, and depression, all while searching for truth and hope in God. Volition is a very lyrically gripping album, that encourages listeners to follow along with the boy's journey, and even relate with him at times. Musically, the album is just as engaging as its lyrics, with a darker sound when the boy is going through something hard, and a lighter, more upbeat sound when he's in a hopeful moment. The musicianship from the band is superb for such a young metal band, and shows much maturity, as compared to Revival, the band's Strike First debut from last year.

At this point in time, what is expected from young, heavy bands is quite a low standard: boring chugging, whiny clean vocals, and barely good screams. I can tell you that As Hell Retreats contain none of these characteristics, but instead are much more creative, with some great unique and melodic guitar work from guitarist Tyler Riley. Vocalist Jackson Greene has also improved over time, showing a great vocal range, from his more general screaming, to deep growls, and even some near-spoken word (briefly). The rest of the band, drummer Trent Davenport and bassist Taylor Jones, do the rhythm section justice, and just show that As Hell Retreats are more than a few guys in a metal band, but are a cohesive group of musicians who are all on the same page musically, a quality that many bands out there do not show today.

Volition starts off with "Young Heretic," a song that really shows what the album is about, both lyrically and musically, as the song contains both heavy parts, and a slower, melodic section as well, all while asking the deep question (as the boy questions his faith): "Who are you? Who are you, God?" An almost jazzy, lush instrumental, "The Loss," is a prelude to "Matriarch," which talks of the death of the boy's mom, the only Christian who's ever really helped him along in his faith. The song features a fitting breakdown, followed by guest vocals from Daniel McWhorter of Gideon, whose vocals compliment Jackson's well. The song appears to come to a close, when the guitar slows down into an eerie, A Plea For Purging-esque riff, before the closing breakdown of "Innocence is dead!"

Some technical guitar work is thrown into the mix on "Shun," which at one point make up a hard hitting breakdown. The intro of "Heaven's Bane" sounds similar to some of the band's past material on Revival, but is the only song on the album that really feels like an older song from As Hell Retreats. Perhaps one of the most interesting songs on the album is the gloomy-sounding "A Beggar...," which lyrically involves the boy meeting a beggar, and on "...And His Faith," the beggar shares a hopeful message of faith with the boy, accompanied by brighter, melodic instrumentation.

From there on, the music takes on a darker tone, heard on "Transgress" and "Desperation," the latter of which finds the story's character screaming "With eyes open, I realize that this world has nothing to offer, all I have is hate! This world has nothing to offer, and I have no faith!" The story then takes a turn for the worse, but after having a dream about his mother, "Creator(s)," the boy is spoken to while unconscious from a friend, his father, and a minister, on "Only Hope," the album's best song and closer. The music of "Only Hope" captures the listener's attention, and is mostly upbeat, before slowing down into an ambient pace, where Aaron Stone of My Epic provides some guest vocals, leading into a triumphant-sounding way to end Volition, done rather remarkably if I do say so myself.

Overall: As Hell Retreats' Volition is one of those albums that is just so creative and willing to push boundaries, not afraid of what others will think, and quite honestly is a breath of fresh air to the metal scene. The album as a whole has no weak spot, and is gripping both musically and lyrically throughout its 12 tracks, showing As Hell Retreats' ability to write great music, that really touches the listener. That being said, Volition may just be the best heavy album that we will hear this year.

Rating: 10/10

Reviewed by Brooks Ginnan

  1. Young Heretic
  2. The Loss
  3. Matriarch
  4. Shun
  5. Heaven's Bane
  6. Misanthropist
  7. A Beggar...
  8. ...And His Faith
  9. Transgress
  10. Desperation
  11. Creator(s)
  12. Only Hope
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