Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Single Bullet Theory - IV

Single Bullet Theory
Goomba Music

Long running Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, U.S.) act Single Bullet Theory has weathered everything imaginable in their eleven year existence, including numerous line-up changes, changes in musical paths, different labels and even a stint of inactivity (The band disbanded in 2008, only to be reactivated later the same year). But despite this, vocalist/guitarist Matt Difablo (Ex-Pissing Razors) has kept the band afloat, and managed to release no less than three albums with his group over their decade long existence.
Four years after the release of their last full-length effort ‘On Broken Wings’ (Released through Crash Music), Difablo has assembled an entirely new line-up of Single Bullet Theory (Who aside from Difablo, also comprise of ex-Insatanity/Polterchrist guitarist/vocalist Dan Loughry, guitarist John Ruszin III, bassist Jeff Kalber and ex-Dark Avenger/Vougan drummer Acácio Carvalho), and released a new full-length effort under the simple moniker of ‘IV’.
Both fans and press alike have always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Single Bullet Theory, which hasn’t always worked in the band’s favour. But after a lengthy four years, I was keen to see if the time away had allowed the band to solidify their song writing to a point where they might be able to convince those who hadn’t otherwise seen eye to eye with the band’s musical path. But as the old saying goes, a leopard can’t change its spots. And as expected, ‘IV’ is another scattered effort that seems to encompass a lot of ground, and yet doesn’t seem really conquer much overall in the end.
The opening track ‘Echoes Of The Past’ is something a little unexpected from the band, with the heavier thrash-like direction of the song itself something you wouldn’t have expected from the band’s past in a million years. But while the heavier direction is a welcome one, the mix of the melodic, the growled and higher end vocals simply don’t sound in perfect harmony, which only leaves the listener cringing at the end result. Production wise, there are also problems, with some of the timing sounding a little out, and the overall mix sounding poor at best. In the end, while there are some good ideas within the track, yet the execution and sound really let the song down.
Sound problems of the former still persist through the follow-up track ‘What Have I’ (And the rest of the album for that matter), but the vocals from Difablo seem to cater more towards what the track actually needs rather than doing something different for the sake of doing something different, while ‘The Wake Of Betrayal’ manages to capitalise on the strengths of the former, but ultimately comes undone by overstaying its welcome by at least three minutes.
Talking of overstaying your welcome, the lengthy ten minute ‘Auctioneer Of Souls’ is another case of some really great ideas pushed to the point of excess, and suffering because of it. Boasting some twenty guitar solos (Including contributions from ex-Nevermore/Sanctuary guitarist Jeff Loomis, King Diamond axeman Pete Blakk, producer/ex-Obituary/Testament/Death shredder James Murphy, Tim Roth of Into Eternity, Rob Zombie/Scum Of The Earth guitarist Mike Riggs, Seven Witches’ Jack Frost and Strapping Young Lad/Zimmers Hole/Tenet legend Jed Simon), the song will certainly appeal to those who love endless guitar solos, but will bore those quickly who want a little more variation from a six string shred-fest from start to finish.
Unfortunately, the remainder of the album doesn’t fare much better, with only the power metal based ‘Leviathan Smiles’, the gothic rock vibe of ‘Letting Go’, and the two bus tracks at the tail end (The cover of Death’s ‘Spirit Crusher’ and the groovier thrash like ‘The Hurt That Never Ends’) standing out as worthy tracks.
I can appreciate, and even applaud any band that’s willing to think outside the box in terms of style, direction and song writing to create an album that’s anything but predictable. But only wholeheartedly if they can pull it off. Single Bullet Theory just doesn’t manage to pull it off.
‘IV’ does have its moments, but for me, it just doesn’t have enough consistent themes and ideas, or enough flow to make the album enjoyable as a whole.
With a real producer and mixer, and a solidified line-up to really formulate a sound that sounds cohesive, Single Bullet Theory could really produce something worthy with their next full-length release. But until then, the love/hate relationship amongst most will not only persist, but reinforce the reason why it exists in the first place.

For more information on Single Bullet Theory, check out - http://www.myspace.com/singlebullettheory

© Justin Donnelly