Monday, November 26, 2012

The Browning - The Browning

It's a rifle made out of steak that shoots feces

I'm going to give a little bit of personal history here, so bear with me.  Years ago, I hated deathcore.  I was one of the hundreds of thousands of metal fans who found the genre to be populated by talentless wastes purely because by dumb luck I had only heard bad bands within the genre (crap like Emmure, Oceano, Carnifex, and the like).  After hearing Burning the Masses and All Shall Perish (two of the least -core deathcore bands by the way.  If you haven't found any bands in the genre you like, give those two a shot), I decided/realized I was being a tool and asked a few of my buddies for recommendations.  One of them sent me a Mediafire folder with like 15 albums he said I should try.  There were more misses than hits that I can remember, stuff like Chelsea Grin and Disfiguring the Goddess that I just didn't like at all, but there was one that really stuck with me, and that was The Browning.  Maybe it was the strange and to this day unexplained name that caught my eye initially, or perhaps it was the fact that the album cover was nothing more than an old clock face.  No big dripping, brutish logo, no intricate artwork of a man getting impaled with a railroad spike, just this plain blue clock.  I don't know why, but it was striking to me at the time, and so I was interested before I had even heard a note of the band's music.

What followed upon clicking "play" was nothing short of a miracle for me.

I didn't call it at the time, but nary a few months later, I was sure that The Browning was going to be huge, possibly even the "next big thing".  The trendsetter, the band that spawned countless imitators, and I'm still of the belief that we're only a few years away from that groundswell.  I mean, it took how many years for any notable Meshuggah knockoffs to rise to prominence?  Something that nobody else has done takes a while to catch on, and The Browning's self titled record is certainly something entirely unique, and it's only a matter of time before the imitators begin pushing forth.  The Browning specialize in a style that is almost entirely electronica + breakdowns, and I would have never guessed such a style would work until happening upon this unsung gem.

I'm not particularly well versed in the several squintillion subniches of electronic music, so I can't really specifically tell you what kind of electronic influence you're getting (though from what I can gather, trance and hardstyle are the two most prominent).  Tracks like "Time Will Tell" and "Judgment" have almost house music styled melodies (though the drumming keeps it grounded in a soundly more rock territory) while "A Better Way" and "Taken for Granted" go for more subtle and atmospheric synths.  I initially saw the band marketed as dubstep + deathcore, which really isn't true at all.  I suspect it was purely a marketing strategy since dubstep was certainly the hot new thing in 2010-2011, since the only trace of what we know as dubstep can be found in the track "Ashamed", from their 2011 release, Burn this World.

And with that I have to bring up that album.  I don't know why, but the band seems to have disowned this self titled, or at the very least doesn't consider it their debut full length (if they consider it an EP or something I don't know why, it's 10 tracks and over 33 minutes long), since Burn this World is being treated like their debut.  There is a clear difference between the two albums for me, and that's that the electronic influence on Burn this World is more straightforward and dance oriented, whereas on the self titled it's more dialed back on the whole and has a more atmospheric mindset behind it.  It's no coincidence that the only two tracks from this that survived to their more widely known successor ("Standing on the Edge" and "Time Will Tell") are also the most straightfoward and... well danceable (for lack of a better term).  Something like "Taken for Granted" would have never fit on that record, and that's one of the reasons I find this self titled to be superior.  It's special in the sense that this was during that sweet spot during the band's early life when they had both an abundance of ideas and also a clue about what they were good at.  If you really want to hear some truly horrid stuff, go check out the reeeeeally early stuff when it was even more simplistic, more electronic, and featured some laughably wretched rapping.  But at this point in their career, they had it narrowed down to "electronic stuff and hardcore stuff", before Burn this World when it was narrowed down even further to simply "dance beats and breakdowns".

With that said, it's a bit of a strange paradox because the best songs are actually the more in-your-face and catchy/dancy ones.  "Standing on the Edge", "Time Will Tell", "Suit and Tie", and "These Nightmares" are easily my favorites, with the other four traditional songs being more of their own collaborative entity known as "the songs in between the great ones".  And even though they aren't the "great" ones, they're by no means the "bad" ones, they just don't stand out as much.  For an album I obviously adore to bits, it's weird to say that a little under half of it comes off as unmemorable filler, but when I sit down and really think about it, it kind of does.  "A Better Way" is the best of the four in that category, thanks to some really awesome bouncy synths in the chorus, but it still ends up getting a bit lost in the static since it precedes the stellar trio of "Time Will Tell", "Suit and Tie", and "These Nightmares".  "Suit and Tie" is the best of that triumvirate, being one of the only songs that sees the guitars not base their parts entirely around breakdowns.  I like my music fast and melodic, and that is definitely the fastest and most melodic song on the album.  Plus the section that starts at 1:17 is just goddamn awesome.  It makes me get up and mosh with nobody every time I hear it.  If you can't dig that, you're dead to me.

The more subtle touches are also a great feature that the band lost as time went on.  The two instrumental passages, "Inner Mission" and "Remnant", are incredibly good.  I could easily hear those tracks being in Goldeneye 64, and if you've ever played that game or heard these songs you know exactly what I'm talking about.  The subtle, swelling synths and the slow, almost creepy piano melodies work extraordinarily well.  It's strange because the more subtle songs don't stand out as much while the big and loud ones hit hard and resonate strongly, but when they just go all out in either direction they land right on the money.  Again, it's the more diverse songwriting displayed on this seemingly buried independent self titled that makes it stand a head above the major label debut.  

I'm failing hard on describing why this rules so much, so I suppose I'll just wrap it up here.  I'm incredibly hipstery about this band.  My favorite album is the one before they got signed to a major label, I "liked" their Facebook page when they had ~600 likes (it's currently sitting at 70,533 as of the time of this writing (to put that in perspective, Gorgoroth has 62,193 and Sigh has less than 5,000)), and I just harp to everybody who brings them up how I totally called their future popularity before they struck it big.  The Browning write big, dumb, catchy tunes and that's undeniably what they're best at, but when they let a few other ideas seep in, they capture a kind of magic that nobody else at the time had managed to ensnare so marvelously.  Despite my opening paragraph, there's no metal influence here, so anybody calling this deathcore or anything of the sort is completely wrong.  It's hard to go into detail as to what makes the band and album so great, because it really can be summed up succinctly and accurately as "breakdowns and light techno beats complementing one another".  That's what's on display, and it's fucking stupendous.

RATING - 88%


  1. I never really bothered to listen to their earlier stuff, but after reading this I gave it a go and I have to say I'm impressed! I'm a sucker for synthy breakdowns anyway, so I like this bands new music too, but yeah- the more atmospheric feel this has is awesome- kind of a shame they never revisited it.

    They did throw these back up on bandcamp though- as two separate 5 track EPs, so I guess that's why they don't consider it their first album.

    1. Huh, that's weird that they're treating them as two EPs nowadays. One of my best friends is a collector and he only this week managed to get his hands on this album, apparently it's super rare and the few people he found with it weren't willing to part with it until this last guy. So it DOES exist as a ten track album in some form (so it wasn't just a mislabeled mashup in that mediafire folder all those years ago), pretty weird that they're essentially whitewashing it out of history that way.

      Anyway yeah, the rest of their stuff isn't necessarily bad either. They're definitely honing their skills as they go, because I thought Burn This World was pretty middling but Hypernova was awesome. I don't remember caring for Isolation all that much but I'm revisiting it as I type this and it's pretty rad. It's actually kinda touching on the less overt dance melodies at times, and that's certainly welcome.