Can y’all believe metalcore still ain’t dead? Because that’s what Follow The Cipher are celebrating with their newest release which happens to be their debut album. I remember back in 2004-2008, when Bullet For My Valentine was the new shit, spawning a trillion of bands with the exact same sound. A lot of, eh, elite metal fans did not enjoy the pandering to the mainstream and prophesied a timely demise for the genre. What do you know, it is still prospering in 2018, albeit without innovation. The formula remains unchanged: catchy choruses, heavy riffs, growls mixed with sweet, sweet clean vocals, and an unusually dense sound.
Follow The Cipher of Falun, Sweden follows the formula by the book, though cutting back on the heavier part of core music, characterized most notably by the lack of the typical growls. But, you may ask, how is this anything close to metalcore without the harsh vocals? First of all, the album doesn’t betray its roots – you’ll find the occasional shouting. Plus, the rest of the mixture is so obviously modern that you’ll have a hard time not considering this part of the genre established earlier this century.
I do not want to dwell on stereotypes – metalcore, modern metal, whatever. Is it good or is it bad? This question couldn’t be answered more subjectively than in the case of Follow The Cipher. A similar question has been posed in 2011 by a band which FTC is copying (my own evil assumption) shamelessly: Amaranthe. I didn’t mention it, but FTC puts forward some pretty amazing female vocals. Singer Linda Toni Grahn can’t exactly be compared to Elize Ryd, but FTC‘s music can be compared to Amaranthe‘s. It’s the same!
If you know Amaranthe, you can stop reading because you know whether you’ll like FTC or not. Usually the phrase is worn out (and mostly wrong), but Amaranthe are a love it or hate it band. Cheesy to the max, but catchy and powerful as well. Thus, the same is true for FTC. Now, I am one of the people who were impressed with Amaranthe in 2011 and saddened by their latest output. FTC pick up where the innovators of female fronted powermetalcore (I made that up) left off.
Each track on Follow The Cipher is so damn catchy. It’s all more or less generic modern metal songwriting, but one of this music’s characteristics is its effectiveness, a concept I like to refer to concerning bands writing impressively dense, vigorous and catchy music. It is effective in the sense that it works. It may not be the height of innovation, some may not consider it trve metal but it works oh so well.
As with all releases of this modern metal genre, the sound production presents itself compressed as heck. As I mentioned in my Borealis review, I usually dislike this, but some albums need it. Follow The Cipher is one of those. It’s part of the “effective” concept. Everything is trimmed for kicking the maximum amount of asses. Sadly, not all compositions on the album follow suit – there’s a noticeable amount of rather balladesque (a ridiculous term for slow – rather than fast – paced walls of sound) tracks to be found on Follow The Cipher. I absolutely love the powerful, fast songs such as “Valkyria” and “Starlight”, but the overwhelming number of doom metal paced songs like “My Soldier”, “Winterfall”, “Titan’s Call”, “The Rising” and others take the wind out of the album’s sails.
Each and every one of those tracks is catchy as hell, but I would have definitely liked seeing more fast tracks. As it stands, Follow The Cipher is still a great debut; you could pick any track off the album and use it as a single. The city of Falun continues to provide value to Nuclear Blast Records with Sabaton and Twilight Force hailing from the small town (37.000 inhabitants… 37.000 metal bands), plus another town’s inhabitant feature on Follow The Cipher, Nils Patrik Johansson of Astral Doors and Wuthering Heights (anyone remember their masterpieces?) who enriches “Starlight” with his Dio-like voice. Uh, blasphemy.