Electronic/techno deathcore from USA, latest full-length album released in 2011.
The world is rapidly approaching an era in which people will be able to be augmented with cybernetic enhancements, perhaps even to the extent of restoring eyesight, or completely replacing a lost limb with a fully functional robotic one. A time filled with glorious new technology and gleaming, metallic skylines. The prospect of actually reaching that time is beyond tantalizing to me. As one might guess, I have spent a lot of time playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution lately. The not-too-distant future setting depicts a time in which technology increases, while humanity decays. The soundtrack of this wonderful game is among my all-time favorites, full of ominous synths and dark rhythms. Perhaps not coincidentally, I was given the latest release from The Browning to review, and there are some interesting similarities.
The Dallas, Texas native quartet began as a side project by vocalist Jonny McBee, and then expanded to a full band last year. They released their self-titled debut independently, and not long afterward, they signed with Earache Records, and geared up to release their “official” debut, Burn This World. The Browning combine deathcore and hardstyle (affectionately dubbed by myself as deathstyle) in a way that has never quite been done before. The electronics aren’t simply bolted on to the deathcore elements; they’re symbiotic. Neither element of the music would be anything special without the other. No cleans or poppy elements are to be found: everything heard here is dark and brooding, a construct of epic proportions.
Burn This World is a brutal and unforgiving machination that takes every element from the self-titled and improves it substantially. For starters, the pitch of McBee’s vocals have vastly improved and diversified, with higher highs and lower lows. The change in dynamic makes the heavy parts much more dark, as his gutturals bring a crushing dimension that was lacking before. Noah “Shark” Robertson provides stellar drum tracks, with a punchy kick and fills that seamlessly flow back and forth with the electronic drums. The bass guitar, manned by Jesse Glidewell, never really cuts through the mix, but that’s really not what The Browning is trying to accomplish. The bass provides the bottom end for the guitars, nothing more, and that’s perfectly fine. Recently-departed guitarist Brian Cravey really stepped up the guitar work, adding plenty of riffs into what previously was an extremely breakdown-centric sound. The title track and “Not Alone” illustrate this point perfectly, with riffs that run roughshod over previous material.
You won’t really find guitar leads here, though, as the synths take their place, often doubling up and creating sweeping leads that enfold the listener, transporting them to a world not unlike the one visualized in Deus Ex. The synth line in “Bloodlust” has to be the single catchiest lead I have ever heard; I found myself humming it to myself several times a day. The Browning’s bread and butter (you know, the butter that we butter our bread with) may be the synth, but they branch out and put other sounds to use, including string arrangements in “Burn This World” and “Bloodlust”, as well as haunting piano pieces in “Living Dead” and “Forgotten”, and some dubstep wobbles in “Ashamed.”
Burn This World isn’t as much a progression as it is an arrival. It is filled with urgency and passion, and McBee’s positive message brings heart to what might otherwise be a cold, lifeless machine. In the brutal ending to “Ashamed”, McBee screams “This is who I was born to be, this is who I will always be!” It is one of many memorable moments throughout the album that unite the listener with the band, screaming at the top of their lungs as one entity. Modulated screams and bass drops accentuate the album at several key points, making this an album you simply have to pound a system with. Perhaps the highlight of the whole album, however, is the revival of an old, old track, “The Sadist.” It ends the album with a boom, benefiting from the much improved production. The final breakdown could rend metal with its ferocity alone, and is followed by a whole minute of serenity, allowing the listener to reflect on the burning of our world that just occurred. It’s poignant, deliberately constructed moments like these that make this not only a fantastic release, but one of the best of the entire year.