After The Burial – ‘Evergreen’

By Dave Stewart

After The Burial are one of those bands in the tech metal scene that has a very loyal and passionate following. Not only have they been blowing fans away with their musicianship and crushing power since their formation in 2004, but they suffered a tragedy that caused listeners to rally around them even more when founding member and core writer Justin Lowe passed away in 2015, and the events surrounding his death deeply affected and saddened the metal community.

It quickly became clear how much Justin’s talent was loved and appreciated by both fans and the band themselves, and the music has been coming thick and fast ever since his death as a way of keeping his memory alive. He may not be with us anymore, but he is undoubtedly at the centre of everything the band writes. That is very much the case with their new record ‘Evergreen’.

This record is a natural progression from their last record ‘Dig Deep’, and definitely acts as a step forwards. The technicality and precision on display here is impossible to ignore, and they do everything in their power to force both those attributes down your ears. Opener ‘Behold The Crown’ is punchy and riddled with grooves, boasting more pinched harmonics than you’ve heard in the last ten years. ’11:26’ is classic After The Burial, crammed full of mind-bending guitars and fast paced drums. It almost feels like a throwback to their earlier days, sounding like something that would’ve fitted perfectly on ‘Rareform’.

Other tracks show a more accessible side to the band that we’ve only seen hints of in the past. ‘Respire’ is one example of this, utilising a more simplistic approach than they normally adopt to create a punchy and almost anthemic sound. ‘Quicksand’ does the same but slowly haunts you as you listen, boasting an eerie atmosphere the entire way through its sludgy and dark passages. The best moments on the record are the ones where they fully utilise their musical abilities, though, and there’s plenty of that to be found on tracks like ‘To Challenge Existence’, ‘Exit, Exist’ and the thrashy album closer ‘A Pulse Exchanged’.

‘Evergreen’ is a great After The Burial record, and contains everything that you’d expect from them. The groove laden guitars, the blistering solos, the tortured vocals – they’re all here, executed effortlessly. There is, however, something missing. It just doesn’t have the same weight and punch that the earlier records had, and that largely is down to the impact Justin’s writing had on the band. His departure and untimely death made it clear how integral he was to the writing process, and his absence is missed. However, this record is still hugely impressive in plenty of other areas, which again is down to Justin. His absence is continuously pushing and inspiring his bandmates to be better.

The record possesses more melody and feeling than ‘Dig Deep’ offered, and that is a huge nod to Justin. A lot of the riffs and lead passages are reminiscent of their breakthrough record ‘Rareform’, perfectly balancing technical wizardry with sheer brutality. The breakdowns are nothing short of spectacular too, which is exactly what you’d expect from After The Burial. Short and powerful bursts of jealousy-inducing tone, expertly dotted through a melodically charged riff-fest – what this record lacks in immediate impact, it absolutely makes up for in songwriting and diversity. That’s something Justin would’ve been proud of. A solid record from one of metal’s most admired bands.

DAVE STEWART

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