With Echoes of the Fallen, Welsh metal band Anterior explores the art of the riff with a foundation of chugging rhythm guitar and pounding drums to go along with it. The band’s second album picks up where their debut, 2007’s This Age of Silence, left off.
But the new record also builds on the experiences of the then-teenagers as they captured local interest and landed bigger support gigs for the likes of 3 Inches of Blood and Skindred. After some changes to the line-up and more touring, including a 2009 UK tour with All That Remains and The Haunted, Anterior’s return to the studio to record Echoes of the Fallen came with more import than ever before in the life of this young band.
The thrash chops are apparent and the worship at the altar of the Almighty Riff never ceases through the 10 songs found on the sophomore effort. At the same time, vocalist Luke Davies doesn’t offer much by way of distinguishing traits and his glowering sounds too alike as it cruises through the tracks.
Building off of the melodic lead guitar, most of the tracks on Echoes of the Fallen take to a familiar pattern. Guitarists Leon Kemp and Steven Nixon trade in technical shamanism, climbing through piles of elaborate riffs that betray an air of Van Halen set in a thrash milieu. Bassist James Britton and drummer James Cook provide solid underpinning, but the guitarists steal this thing.
Shades of Shadows Fall and All That Remains reconcile much of Anterior’s sonic attack with the grounding it needs, but these boys don’t fully search their shadier edges. Perhaps a more audacious approach is to come on subsequent records, but Echoes of the Fallen lacks a certain something in the final analysis.
Tracks like “Tyranny” and “Blood in the Throne Room” dig in to the ears and pull apart the tiny bones the first time round, but subsequent listens reveal an experience that plays in the shallow end. Nothing expands with supplementary spins and, sadly, there’s not much more to hear.
The problem is that the lads never stray from the scheme. Take “Venomous,” for example. The riff is set up and tucked in by a succession of chords and played out with the rhythm section. Because the vocals don’t add anything distinctive to the game, the song remains the same as virtually every other track on the album.
So while the energy is worth admiring, there isn’t enough of substance to Echoes of the Fallen to endorse. Anterior is filled with perfectly capable musicians doing perfectly capable things, but it’s never that interesting.