Signal the Firing Squad is a 4-piece technical deathcore band from Australia that has lately been making a lot of noise in the international scene, especially with their most recent, August 2012 release titled Abnegate (not the one I’m reviewing). Since that record began making the rounds, their bandwagon really took off, and with it, that of an entire slate of other Aussie deathcore bands, including mainstays and pack-leaders like Thy Art is Murder and newcomers like Boris the Blade. All that aside, it’s difficult to argue that all this hype is anything more than just that. Through and through, STFS is undoubtedly hypertechnical and mind-bogglingly fast on this debut LP, but extremely repetitive and often atmospherically stagnant, offering little to no dynamics on any its tracks.
While the shredding speed and noodling is definitely impressive, the band’s strength really lies in their creative rhythmic patterns (that becomes more evident on Abnegate), that the vocals often follow and prove effective at both transitioning and diversifying the album as a whole and as individual tracks. However, they seem to overuse it as a crutch between riffs and solos and the patterns get just plain tired, now matter how polyrhythmic, syncopated, or heavy. That said, on tracks like “3r453r,” they employ almost droning, doomy death metal influence to channel crushing heaviness that’s nearly unavoidable. Although it might be repetitive and not all that complex, it’s a welcome break from all the blasting, weedling, and breakdowns. And then the following track “Schematics of a Massacre” breaks its way in, extremely percussively abrasive and chaotic, offering highly compelling and unique fills and plenty of diversity, at least when necessary.
Unfortunately those two tracks seem to be their musical peak, as the follow-up “Obliteration of the Ages” is utterly disorganized, with Beneath the Massacre-esque noodling that comes out of nowhere and consequently falls flat and ineffective. Typically, I can’t get enough dissonance and unpredictability, but when randomly inserted amongst generic deathcore riffs and breakdowns it almost seems silly. “Drawn and Slaughtered” is the same way, but with out the BtM influence. But, it does redeem itself with a hyper-aggressive thrash riff that leads the listener out of the song, in a display of undeniably creative song construction. The final track, “Adapting to Genocide,” also largely relies on blastbeats, fills, and rhythms, as the guitarwork is largely stagnant and repetitive. But, the fills are absolutely jaw-dropping and turn the song into a serious standout.
Overall, the guitarwork leaves much to be desired, although it is just a debut. The drumming is absolutely insane, especially when it’s focused on fostering chaos and utter musical anarchy, and definitely deserves a second glance (or three). The vocals aren’t really anything out of the ordinary and I can’t really say that they add much to the music other than a central position of focus. Oh and the nearly omnipresent layering can be annoying, but that’s just a pet peeve of mine. I’d personally rather just listen to the drumming. But I digress. Without a doubt, this album makes for a solid debut, even if it falls flat at many points. It’s a solid stepping stone that the band will hopefully step off in the right direction.