Angel or Alien. That’s interesting, isn’t it? Seems almost like a play on the concept of having the angel on one shoulder, but a devil on the other. One being, a trustworthy entity of hope and light, always guiding you towards the safest path, while the other an inconceivable and potentially malicious force, urging you towards the darker deluge of fear and uncertainty. An angel is something we can place, so to speak, a face on to an emotion, and with that comes a sense of knowing what is right and persuades a feeling of imperviousness to the dangers that lurk just outside your window. The alien on the other hand is the ominous unknown. An ambiguous being that leaves you unclear, unsettled, unsure and questioning everything. What’s real and what is merely a mirage? Is this something which will fill me with security and joy, or with dismay and hatred. A fascinating and provocative metaphor that truly feels as if it helps to sum up Born of Osiris’ upcoming album of the same name. Have you ever felt as if something has changed so drastically, yet somehow remained at least a shade of what it has always been? As hypocritical and confusing as that sounds, in some twisted way it makes sense and that is exactly the territory BoO finds themselves in with this new outing. Their signature djenty riffs and odd time signatures are found throughout, yet there is so much that feels entirely new and refreshing. So familiar, yet…otherworldly. Lyrically the album fits the title with stunning perfection. Words that bring that one sentence/question to life and paint a picture of right from wrong. Good from evil. And as strange as the album title may seem, it IS Born of Osiris, and as it’s always been, they have their own unique way of telling their story while titillating the mind with their own blend of sound and imagery. Angel or Alien feels like a true return to form, all the while broaching on new and unfounded territory for the lads. Throughout the years BoO have always strived to set themselves apart from the hodgepodge of generalities in the core world, and while each album may have had that quality of feeling commonplace to the untrained ear, for those who were actually paying attention, there has always been flourishes of the unexpected, albeit subtle in nature. Angel or Alien also feels like THE album BoO was supposed to drop now. The previous two releases, while undoubtedly welcome, felt kind of peculiar to me. After 2015’s Soul Sphere it would be two years before the next release. This in and of itself is not what took me aback, but moreover the fact that instead of new material the band re-released their debut ep, The New Reign (now aptly named, The Eternal Reign) to mark its ten-year anniversary. Now mind you it was entirely re-recorded and felt as if it was a monstrous new beast, breathing new life into what had been a decade ago a phenomenal introduction to what this band had in store. And yet it left many a fan wanting more (at least in the sense of something COMPLETELY new). It wouldn’t be until another two years had passed that we would finally get a brand spankin’ new album entitled The Simulation. The first of what was supposed to be a double album (which unfortunately never came to fruition, and who’s sound was slightly different than what most BoO fans came to expect). Perhaps the second side to that album may have led to this making a bit more sense, but alas that idea was no more. And to that I say, so what? Here we are today with what is assuredly the group’s most cohesive and mind-blowing album to date.
Genre: Progressive Metalcore | Metalcore
Label: Sumerian Records
FLOW / LONGEVITY/ ORIGINALITY
The overall flow of almost any Born of Osiris album could be compared to a rollercoaster that while being a bumpy and wild ride, still feels as if from its very start at the top of that steep track and its eventual roll through, hitting all the loops and twists, it ends up at the finish in such a smooth fashion. I know, I know. That analogy is kind of all over the map, but isn’t a BoO album just that? “Poster Child” sets the stage, beginning as most Born of Osiris songs do, with a sinister synthesizer line from keyboardist and co-vocalist Joe Buras, bouncing into a rhythmic straight up metalcore drive of drumming, guitars, and bass. Simple in essence, but a more than welcome storming of the gates style opening to the album as it really gets your head bangin’ straight from jump street. The album follows a similar pattern to past releases if only in the sense that BoO’s sound is of a ferocious onslaught nature. Banger after banger, stomper after stomper. But with this album they switch up that age old recipe a bit by leaning towards a more melodic momentum with the odd track. “Poster Child”, “White Nile”, and title track “Angel or Alien” deliver the listener that snazzy djent groove that are the epitome of oddly timed heavy hitters, while once we hit “Waves” we hear a 4/4-time signature (for the most part) that is as much a toe tapper, as it is a mosh inducer. Angel or Alien follows this pattern, and even though this is nothing ground-breaking in the world of music, it still helps to mix things up a bit and bring something new to the fold for BoO.
I gotta tell ya. I’m a pretty cot dang big fan of Born of Osiris. I may not know everything about them or their music, but hot damn If I don’t vibe with it all in a crazy way. They may not epitomize the full definition of what ‘unique’ encompasses, but I would think that most would be hard pressed to say they resemble anything that could be referred to as cookie cutter. It’s that ‘stand-apart-from-the-rest’ persona that for years now has made them a staple in my regular rotation of tunes, and Angel or Alien only cements this fact further. Not to beat a dead horse, but this album truly does feel like a vastly fresh take from the Illinois boys and has given me a fresh perspective on the band, as a whole. I just fucking love how this album is the heaviest these dudes have ever been, while somehow the most melodic all at once. The stay power of an album such as this is palpable. I can undoubtedly envision years down the road, even after more releases, this album will still stand out in a crowd.
As I previously said, Born of Osiris are not the personification of unique or original. In fact, they share more than a few similarities with labelmates Veil of Maya (anyone notice the similar names before?) among others, and yet when you hear BoO, there’s no mistaking it’s them. Unlike so many other bands that can seamlessly blend together to the point that you don’t know where the head of band ‘A’ begins and the ass of band ‘Z’ ends. With Angel or Alien the group pushes towards furthering their distance from the sounds of other bands. Album closer, “Shadowmourne” is a wondrous mish mash of sounds and elements, raising it high above your standard definition of what a song ‘should’ be. A saxophone runs wild throughout, even with a bananas solo towards the end of the track. Paired with the stellar guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards, the song is a highly unexpected gem showcasing that Born of Osiris want to and always will endeavor to be their own creature.
VOCALS / INSTRUMENTATION
I love, love, love, LOVE the vocals of this band. Holy shit I dig them in a gigantic way. This band does have a fucking killer main vocalist in Ronnie Canizaro, but let’s be honest here folks; on so many tracks this does feel like a dual vocalist group with Joe Buras taking the reigns on many occasions. And their songs are all the more impactful for it. They play off of one another in such a harmonious and still maniacal way that never makes anything but the upmost sense, and it always works. This couldn’t be any clearer than on the vile sounding track, “In For The Kill”. Even in the mere opening moments of the song Canizaro and Buras go line for vicious line, and even though you know they’re screaming at an entirely different antagonist, you can absolutely picture them in all their intense ferocity facing one another down while this beatdown of words transgress. “Truth and Denial” and “You Are The Narrative” are perhaps my favorite ‘Canizaro’ tracks on the entire album. On both songs he displays a sound which I can only describe has the most humungous and savage dog growling and barking while blood oozes and drips down is jowls. He puts Cujo to shame in glorious fashion. Whereas Buras is at his most impressive during “Shadowmourne” and “Waves”. His signature scream/sing style just shines fucking gloriously, and it seems as if on both tracks, he is pushing himself more than ever before, vastly broadening his range to new heights.
I mean shit. Aren’t the instrumentals on any BoO album ONE of the most in obvious spotlights? What Lee McKinney can do with a guitar, most of us couldn’t even fathom doing in whatever relatable way in any particular skillset to be honest. And that is definitely not to say the entire band isn’t on full showcase and fucking killing it throughout the entirety of Angel or Alien. A prime example of the ramp up of lunacy for this band comes with “Crossface”. The title alone provides a taste of what’s to come musically, as it actually kind of sounds like what I’m sure I looked like after hearing it for the first time. It definitely has those chunky djent style notes, all backed by a sludgy backbone that wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for the perfect playing and planning on Nick Rossi’s part. Cameron Losch displays a killer sense of timing, knowing when to pull back on the crazy and provide a ‘one-two’ rhythm, then blasting out double bass drum lines when the moment calls for it. “Threat Of Your Presence” shows the group switching styles up between moments of more straight up metalcore, and the progressive elements the they are more than famous for. Fast paced fingers across the fretboards and sticks all over the kit, switch up to heavy palm muting and more simplistic drum hits, providing diversity and leaving behind anything stale or repeated.
COMPOSITON / PRODUCTION
This album is definitively Born of Osiris’ most creative, cohesive, and mature release yet. The amount of style and panache in which they manifested a progressive metalcore album almost shadows anything they have done before. Now in all truthfulness, every album was leading up to this, of course. One cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that all previous albums were a natural progression to where they have come, but the musicianship is beyond reproach, and one could easily tell that every bit of it has been stepped up in an incredible way. The vocals are unlike anything displayed before from BoO, giving the listener the most cleans ever heard from this band (almost every single song has at least a momentary passage), and still, some of the most intense and ruthless screams yet. And let’s not forgot the lyricism. With subject matter running the emotional gamut, nothing was left to simple phrases or baseless whining. The messages are heartfelt and deep. Angel or Alien is this bands finest work to date, and there isn’t one moment where it isn’t obviously due to a mind-boggling level of teamwork in creating this masterpiece.
The production on Angel or Alien is top tier. Songs like “Shadowmourne” are perfect examples of why. For a song to have that many layers (the ‘standard’ instruments, paired with various sounds and elements being produced by Buras and his keyboard/synthesizer, AND adding a SAXOPHONE on top of it all) and to still have the listener be able to hear and almost feel each one of them so exquisitely and texturally and having nothing lost to the ether is a rare artform all on its own. And this carries throughout each track on the album. The at times grungy palm muting vibrates the floors as it is meant to. Each hi-hat tap, and bass drum rumble is felt to your core. And every note sung and screamed sounds as if it is coming from within your own house. THIS is the level of production that any band in a similar realm should always be pushing for.
There was a time where this review would have been coming from a completely biased place of opinion. I am a progressive metalcore stan, and therefore many bands within the genre have a special place in my musical heart. But nothing is perfect and with The Eternal Reign and The Simulation (while both being great in their own right), I felt as if something was slightly missing in the world of BoO. I was anxiously awaiting and salivating for that next ‘something special’ and hoping it would once again blow me away. Enter Angel or Alien. From second 1, I was hooked and floored. This album was dynamically a step (or a million) up, leaving me stoked for what once made the made so stellar in my eyes, all the while surprising me with every new twist and turn. To have some of the heaviest riffs yet AND at the same time showing in a crazy way that this band will never be pigeon-holed into any one box the public may try to force them into is everything I wanted and more. It is truly amazing what the band has created with Angel or Alien, and I know many of the Boocrue will feel exactly the same. THIS is Born of Osiris at their most absolute best.