Musical evolution is a tricky subject that many musicians tread lightly due to the back and forth pull they deal with when it comes to pleasing themselves and their fans. On one end, they face a multitude of challenges, from the desire to evolve and change musically as they get older and undergo new experiences, while at the same time trying to reach different fan avenues and appease longtime ones. The opposite end of the spectrum is from the fan perspective as most would love to see a continuity and improvement on the original sound they fell in love with, while remaining as engaging and beautifully composed as possible. This pull from each end is what tends to lead to a back and forth in interaction as years pass by and musicians put out new music. In many cases, artists tend to find the perfect balance of the old school with a new twist after a few attempts. It’s this balance that metal outfit Within the Ruins have found themselves going after with their newest outing, Halfway Human as they blend their heavier, deathcore rooted foundation with more modern metalcore stylings in hopes of changing it up.
Getting straight to the point in what Halfway Human sounds like, it’s a continuation of the sound that was developed on Phenomena. That is to say, their last release laid out the groundwork for their continuing separation from typical deathcore stylings as it incorporated more metalcore influences into their technical overall sound. With this record, Within the Ruins improve upon that with a larger-but-not-overdone amount of cleans, a tighter, crisper sound that allows the band’s sound to pop off the page and bringing forth a more melodic nature to an intricately technical sound. The inclusion of these different approaches has been the driving force behind many saying the album is one that will divide their thoughts on the band – on one hand, the crunchy and technical instrumentation with brutal growls and a massive bite still exists – but the other side is that it’s a little too toned down and dependent on certain melodic musings.
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To clarify further, it’s easier to delve into the foundation of the record and the tracks that lie within it. As the album opens up with “Shape Shifter”, fans will immediately recognize the wailing guitar leads intermingled with the technicality they have grown to love before a huge guitar solo enters the fray. This is brought forth further by the extremely tight and crisp production that really adds an extra layer of “crunch” to the sound. With “Death of the Rock Star”, the growth in vocal prowess shines through with a wider range of highs and lows accompanied by backing cleans underneath the chorus, giving a two-pronged approach. The record continues in a similar manner throughout as melody and bite come together to drive Halfway Human not only instrumentally, but musically altogether. That said, the record contains a few songs that will throw listeners for a slight loop, with “Objective Reality” and “Sky Splitter” having a more atmospherically driven backing and seeing a wider utilization of signing than previous material. It’s these moments where it really becomes clear that Within the Ruins were aiming for something that would be both familiar and different and in that regard, they have succeeded.
From the improved vocal range with more melodic backings due to the higher inclusion of cleans to the non-stop energetic approach from the backing percussion to the soaring riffs and intricate fretwork, it’s the additional stylings and musings that have resulted in this being a different kind of Within the Ruins than heard before. In fact, that will probably be the most common theme when it comes to peoples’ overall thoughts on the record. At the end of the day however, this is a band that has built their career on being extremely intense, raw and technical and Halfway Human delivers that. It’s simply a matter of the more creative and exploratory side shown being the one that will end up being discussed ad-nauseam – and the one that’ll ultimately end up defining where they head next.