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After Smoke Clears – Edification

After Smoke Clears
by Brian Lowrie at 30 November 2020, 8:29 PM

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Randy Blythe ever became the frontman for a metalcore band? Well, me neither. Now that your curiosity has been piqued, for better or worse, I regret to inform you that no such thing exists, but United Kingdom act AFTER SMOKE CLEARS would probably be the closest thing there is to such a peculiar mashup. Utilizing lyric subjects mostly in the vein of mental transcendence, their debut full-length “Edificiation” is a solid first attempt, but is overshadowed by other releases from this year that just seem to have it dialed in better.

“The Vine” is the opening track, with the focus of it being on multilayered guitar riffs underneath an occasionally rapid-fire vocal line, with drums that do little in the way of improvisation. Since so many of the sections in this song are tied together through low-end guitar riffs, it’s hard to tell when this track is trying to move from one idea to the next. “Machine Dependent” hits a lot better, utilizing delayed guitars over a drum-and-bass groove for the verse sections; it’s moments like these on an album that I feel I can focus on the production values, and everything sounds well balanced and full.  If “The Vine” can be considered as a tester track for the album, “Machine Dependent” sees the band branch out a little more and feels a lot more fleshed out of a concept.

“Deterioration” is a lot more lyrically driven than the other songs so far, about “A story of personal suffering and family tragedy… a reminder to the listener that life is short lived”. Needless to say, the atmospheric elements are heavily accentuated here, often trading the spotlight with the heavier grooves, and not having them play out at the same time was a good choice as it doesn’t sound cluttered or overwhelming. As predicted, the next track “Invigorate” leans more in favor of the constant groove, serving a consistent tempo that plays out like “The Vine”, but the riffs themselves are more thought-out and busier sounding. Even though this approach doesn’t necessarily appeal to me, as I prefer atmospheric/larger sounding compositions, I found the chorus riff to be a fun twist on what would be an otherwise stereotypical “djent” riff. “Beta To Gamma”, much to my surprise, turns the aggression up a few notches, using bridges to build tension for the chorus sections to release. In a live setting, this song would be one of the heavy-hitters, which plays favorably with the lyrical themes of conquering your mental prison.

It seems that this is a formula that would work for the band, as the song structure is imitated in “Rapacious”, while trying to hold it’s own identity at the same time. However, the adrenaline wasn’t matched, and the staggering vocals made this song feel clumsy and more of an obligatory addition to the album. Out of all the songs that have that sort of “nu-metal” feel on the album, “Extinguo” feels the strongest, and I feel it’s due to the tight drum work on this song. David Catu’s ability to keep in the swing of things, and still add his own personal touch by means of fills and licks (while not overstepping any boundaries by being obnoxious), really shines through in this track. Once again, After Smoke Clears finds something that works and tries to apply it to another track with “Buried”, albeit with stronger progressive metal influences present. I found the choices of where vocalist Nick Hurford would be heard to be one of the more interesting parts of the track, as I would have liked to see some interaction between him and the rest of the band for the sections with the more precisely-timed riffs. “Awaken” sees a fix to this, and the verse sections feel more Meshuggah-esque, which feels a bit weird against the chorded chorus’. I always hate to fault a band for this, but a lot of the experimental liberties taken in this song are intriguing, but often interrupt its own momentum, and feels as though too many things are being juggled at once. “Edify”, much in the same vein, comes out of left field, and turns the experimentation up to ten. Feeling the most traditionally “metal-core” out of the album, there is a little bit of everything in this track; dissonant melodies, stuttering guitar riffs, two-step drum beats and exaggerated vocal lines. But, like “Awaken”, this track’s inability to focus ends up being its own demise. This can all be said of the first three minutes of the track, then another left turn occurs in which the band takes a more ambient approach, with the help of a call-and-response between guitar and piano track and guest vocalist Ciiten. I wish there were more tracks in this style on the album, as the band really excels when they step back from the somewhat predictable “low-note rhythms” in favor of creating landscapes and really diving into their messages of self-improvement.

Overall, this is an ambitious and surprisingly mature sounding debut release, but I don’t ever see myself revisiting this album as the moments I found myself full indulged in the album were few and far between. This album is definitely not album of the year material, just for my tastes alone, but that shouldn’t stop you from listening to this album if anything I’ve described thus far sounds enticing.

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 7
Memorability: 6
Production: 8

3 Star Rating

1. The Vine
2. Machine Dependent
3. Deterioration
4. Invigorate
5. Beta To Gamma
6. Rapacious
7. Extinguo
8. Buried
9. Awaken
10. Edify
Nick Hurford – Vocals
Alessandro Legname – Guitar
Aaron Dohnt – Bass
David Catu - Drums
Record Label: Independent


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Edited 29 November 2022

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