Dying Vine


Dying Vine - Reviews

First, they blow listeners away with the unfairly stunning, independent debut, Hope Prevails. Then, they manage to surpass their own insurmountable precedents with the engrossing concept album, Apolutrosis. After cramming more quality into two albums than most bands listlessly drip into the average long-time career, is there any way this Pennsylvania quartet can have more to offer? By some miracle of Metal's muse, Aletheian found it within themselves to create something brilliant enough to match and maybe even outshine their previous work. Dying Vine should be heard as nothing less than a true masterpiece of Metal. Taking no real cues from current trends, Aletheian look back a few years to the dizzying pulses of Meshuggah's Chaosphere for rhythmic foundation before setting their sites on the groundbreaking work of Death on albums like Human and Individual Thought Patterns for composition and riffing influence. They meld this powerhouse combination with a tasteful amount of Prog not unlike Dream Theater to produce Dying Vine, a record clearly worth gushing about.

Thick layers of harmonized guitars introduce the album's opener, "Paragon". What begins as an enrapturing moment of calm amidst a storm of distortion quickly descends into the whirlwind of progressive Death Metal chaos to set the record's tone. Sharply contrasting moods pad out the album's dynamics while guitars grind and wail with unparalleled ferocity and emotion. As if the guitar work on the last two records wasn't impressive enough, these guys somehow found new territory to explore. The drumwork intricately matches, answers, and then reinforces the guitars through adept skill and feeling. The urgency of the message is unequivocal with the impassioned vocal attack that falls perfectly between traditional growls and screams.

Of course, plenty of bands have tons of skill, passion, and interplayability, but few can write songs this well. Out of these nine songs, there is not one that is less than impenetrably solid. Aletheian's intriguing structures and overload of dynamics keep the listener constantly wondering what wonderful idea is coming next. This is one of those records that goes far beyond being a collection of songs to being a true musical experience. With Dying Vine, Aletheian set a new standard for what enthralls.
Review by Jeremy Coulson - 6/20/05

Formerly known as Crutch, Aletheian have existed on the periphery of the Pennsylvania metal scene playing shows constantly and producing competent and consistent recordings to surprisingly little acclaim. Perhaps it is the band's up-front Christianity which keeps the underground metalheads away or maybe the band hasn't positioned themselves in front of the right audiences. Either way both the band and their potential fans are missing out though as Alethian further proves on this second full-length effort that they can rightfully be considered among the elite of American technical and progressive death metal bands. While their previous effort was a solid slab of Death worship, they spread their wings and expand their horizons, producing a complex work of murkily complex metallic darkness on Dying Vine. While the muscular techical virtuosity of mid- to late-period Death is still the primary influence here, the band have made major strides in terms of atmosphere, song-writing, and most important, establishing a more singular identity.

Forsaking any extraneous intro's, the album begins impressively enough, and an extremely solid production job is immediately noted. The album definitely benefits from a very up-front mix and the album has a great deal more punch for it. The sound here is not raw by any stretch of the imagination, but in comparison to other more progressive or technical bands, it sounds positively visceral. When the band themselves really hit their stride on "Out From Shadows" it is stunning to behold. Shifting tempo's flawlessly from monolithic mid-paced crunches to riveting thrash leads, utilizing clean vocals, keys, and baritone guitar with subtle, well-timed genius; Aletheian really make a statement over the course of Dying Vine. Everything really comes together for them here, inspired performances abound and this album is rich with blazing leads, brilliant riffs, flawless transitions and strong diverse vocalizing. Joe Walmer's drumming is especially of note here, he gives his kit such a brutal workout in every song it is very hard for this skeptic to believe that the spirit possessing him is anything close to holy.

Usually when one speaks of a band "running their paces" it is at best indicating a neutral opinion of minimal competence and at worst a derogatory comment on a band's (lack of) effort. I would like to make an exception to that here, and use the phrase as a compliment. As the album builds, Aletheian really open up, utilizing an expansive repetoire of diverse, shifting rhythms, menacingly pulsating dynamics and progressively more epic song-writing. It really seems like the band threw everything they had at this record, and while usually such a lack of restraint results in disaster, here it produces an intimidatingly strong and complete experience.
[John Gnesin]    Posted 08/09/05

"Wow. Here's gem of a record from Pennsylvania's Aletheian (formerly Crutch) who have to be one of the US's best undiscovered death metal bands. Superbly done technical, atmospheric and progressive death metal that isn't pretentious or too unoriginal.

Now, this isn't the brutal technicality of Gorod, Capharnaum or the like, but the elegant, flowing, swirling, synth flocked artistic complexity that resembles the classic styles of Atheist, Death, Cynic, Believer, recently Sceptic and Theory In Practice. The line between overly showy intricacy and actual song writing is perfectly implemented as Aletheian command attention between mesmerizing musical dalliances with slower, more atmospheric passages. The slower moments actually reminded me a little of the horribly underrated and now defunct US band Summer Dying.

"Paragon" opens the album in grandiose style with delicate clean vocals over Joel Thorpe's raspy screams and the eloquent Schuldiner inspired guitars of Alex Kenis and Donny Swigart that shimmer with skill, and slow to draining ebb. "Broken Legacy" is a bit choppy for me, considering the openings track's perfection, but it gives Kenis and Swigart a chance to flex their appendages and allows drummer Joe Walmer to be a little more experimental. "Out of the Shadows" returns to the more artfully progressive melodics and "As the Fall Breaks" is pure latter era Death, down to the jazzy introductory bass lines and hypnotic mid paced angular riffing. Joel Thorpe isn't the most dominant vocalist I've heard, but he is serviceable "An Open Grave" is arguably the album's most aggressive track, with Thorpe adopting a lower register growl and some atonal clean vocals, but the entire track takes a while to settle down, before some sprawling, epic guitar work finishes the track in style. The short but convoluted "Shepard's Fold" has some flamenco acoustics and clean vocals as it segues into the far more competent "The Devine Line" which should make guitar aficionados weep with inspired bridges and sweeping structures all wonderfully played and intricately placed. "Call to Arms" and "Burnt offerings" close out the album with technical gusto, with "Burnt Offerings" being a fittingly somber instrumental piece to close the album with a well deserved sigh.

The production is as expected from a tiny startup independent label, so it's a little thin in places and Thorpe could me more commanding, but aside from those minor facts, Aletheian demand your attention with superb musicianship and finite song writing that point the way towards filling Death's shoes.

Oh by the way, if you hadn't grasped from the band name, label name and song titles, Aletheian are a Christian band.

Boo-ya. "    Review by ERIC THOMAS

Since starting this site several years ago, I have failed to keep my word to a number of incredible musicians and record labels - whether I flaked on a promised review or completely went out of touch for months on end, the real world has a way of rearing its ugly head and attacking one's passion with venemous zeal. Aletheian is one of my many victims - I had agreed to do a review of their previous release, an album that fell through the cracks of my amorphous, ever-growing review pile, and for that I sincerely apologize to this band. What Aletheian have accomplished with "Dying Vine" is quite impressive, and I can only hope that my completely negligance towards them somehow fueled the creative wizardry achieve by this band.

While their past effort had a substantially darker, almost folk-rooted doom/death/black approach, "Dying Vine" is a guitar-centered feast of Schuldiner-inspired shreds, concepts, and progressions. There are guitar duets and harmonies sprinkled throughout the album, at times flirting with Gothenburg nostolgia, however unlike their Swedish counterparts whose riffs have an upbeat, folk/rock attitude, songs and even riffs themselves have a far more meloncolic, doomy disposition. Coupled with the heavily technical undercurrent remniscient of bands like Death, Cynic, Control Denied, Illogicist, etc..., songs on "Dying Vine" hit you from all angles, dazzling you with fantastic solos, intruiging curls and breaks, and a distinctly refreshing alternative to the Swedish thrash attitude. The band effectively lean on mid-paced, post-thrash chugs as foundation rhythms, complete with crushing china-cymbol "metronome" hits that Meshuggah do so well. Their ground rhythms have a satisfying crunch to them that could easily rope in a younger, more metalcore-focused listeners, while their guitar leads, melodic motifs, and even epic grandeur will school a whole new generation in melodic death metal's true roots.

Aletheian haven't completely departed from their folk/doom tendencies, which continue to permeate the musical landscapes on "Dying Vine". There are brooding synths that never actually coalesce into a focused melody, but rather add ambience to the already doom-laced emotions. Though used sparingly, there are clean vocals and harmonies that bring Empryean Sky to mind, as well as purely accoustic, plucked breaks that champion vintage, "Orchid"-era moods. The band's comfort zone is clearly in the elaborate guitar riffing and traditional, Shuldiner-inspired melodic death metal, bringing us all back to an age of pure musical exploration, before scenes, stereotypes, and pigeonholing took the fun out of melodic death metal.

The production is uneven and thin at times, and while it doesn't exactly get in the way of conveying the band's musical intent, I can't help but feel that the deep vocal harmonies and towering vocal duets could sound far more impressive; the band's musicianship is definitely up to it. I also feel at times that their riff writing is further along than their song writing skills, as some of their songs run together in my mind, though more likely than not that's merely a symptom of not listening to the album enough.

Aletheian are without doubt a band to watch, as their chops only continue to improve. With the huge renaissance as of late in brutal, technical death (Gorod, Beneath The Massacre, Anata, Decapitated, etc...), it's extremely refreshing to hear a more melodically-focused technical death metal installment hit the scene. Big labels take note, this right here is a band to watch. Fans of Death, Atheist, Cynic, Capharnaum, Illogicist, and more will love this album.   Review by Smathers //  08.02.05

This is my third bout with the band formerly known as Crutch.  Aletheian apparently isn't doing enough self-promotion, playing shows, or hitting the right labels up with these almost annual demos; they've awed me on multiple fronts with every release.  If I had a label, I'd sign 'em.  Chuck Schuldiner's unfathomable inspiration is well worn in this day and age, yet wherein many a math-junkie's technical proficiency flourish with second-rate Death reinterpretation, Dying Vine actually excited me, breeding anticipation much like the virgin listen to each Death record bore where you're trying to groove along with the sick riffing but second guessing every next note and you know it's going to take a few hundred listens until you perfect that last sweep.  Hosts of other influences have inspired their craftsmanship as well.  Over the course of the record you'll be swept up in cosmic atmospheres, triumphant vocals and rampant scuffles with prog metal elements.  Diehards for expansive, "mature"-but-aggressive metal (i.e. Arcturus, Dream Theater, Unexpect, Cynic), as well as junkies for the legions of conquistadors taking Chuck's techniques to undiscovered territories, won't be sorry they took a second out of their day to check this out.  -  Dave Brenner  Feb '06 Vol. 23, No.2

ENSLAIN Magazine

Aletheian blend influences from every source of modern underground metal imaginable. You can hear the technical splendor of Death and Extol, the off-timings of Meshuggah, the hardcore punch of Zao, and the progressive edge of Dream Theater, all tied neatly into a melodic and dark little package.

The mix of influences is sometimes noticeably distinct, but generally comes together to create a technically proficient melodic metal mixture. The resulting sound is unimaginably European for a band from my home state of Pennsylvania. The guitarwork is impassioned and inspired, the riffs are dramatic and dynamic, and the few solos are tasteful and fitting. The vocals fluctuate from death growls to ungodly black screeches, with occassional clean passages. Subtle keyboards round out the sound and help give fullness to the near-immaculate production.

As an alumni of the Cornerstone festival, it is obvious that Alethian is a Christian band, but lyrically they don't shove it down your throat, so don't let that scare you off. They do, however, have a habit of writing pretentiously multi-syllabic lyrics, but I'm willing to forgive that. The whole package is very professional for a band that has no label-mates.

Other than the closing instrumental "Burnt Offerings", which is epic and soothing, there's not a lot of variation from one song to the next, so no song really stands out from the rest. Instead, each song is equally as creative as the last, with similar arrangements and mid-song style changes, remaining melodic all the while. This being said, it still has a tendency to drag on a little. There's really no other criticism to give, "Dying Vine" is brilliant and inspiring, and I hope it gets the chance it deserves. --
Lady Enslain  8/04/05

At the Cornerstone Festival this year (2005), I was talking to the lead singer of Aletheian, Joel Thorpe.  He mentioned to me that in the past, people had came to see them in concert and just loved their sound.  However, when they bought their Apolutrosis album, many would e-mail the band and complain that it sounded nothing like their live sound.  While Apolutrosis was a fabulous album, I will agree that the album was way different then their live show.  Aletheian puts on an incredibly tight and powerful live performance and it seems like the band tried to show that side of themselves in this new album, Dying Vine.  When you see the band in concert and then buy Dying Vine, it's not going to be a let-down at all.  This album is chock full of deftly executed, ultra technical, progressive death metal that will more than satisfy their long time fans and concert goers, and will for sure gain them many new fans as well.

Musically, Aletheian just floors me.  It's obvious that the band members didn't just pick up their instruments 6 months ago and quickly taught themselves a few chords so as to play the latest trendy style and make a quick buck.  No, these gentlemen have spent years honing their skills and it shows on this disc.  The dueling guitars of Donny Swigart and Alex Kenis are just sick!  This guys are all over the place with punishing riffs, mind-boggling solos, and leads that knock you off your feet.  They take technical to a new level, but they do it all within the confines of the song.  Nothing sounds out of place or done just to "show off."  Every note they play makes the song more complete and more interesting.  Add to all of that, Joe Walmer's fantastic and complex drumming, and you have a band that could hold the attention of any extreme metal lover even without vocals.  They even toss in some acoustic guitar playing and keyboards at times to their advantage. 

Now, I was saying that the band could go without vocals...but why?  Mr. Joel Thorpe has a set of lungs and pulls off some deadly growls mixed with harsh screams to further compliment the band's already huge wall of sound.  Guitarist Alex Kenis does provide some occasional clean vocals, but they are very sparsely used.  The only problem I could come up at all is that the vocals sometimes seem to get lost in the swirling musical chaos and following the lyric sheet becomes nearly impossible.  Speaking of lyrics, they are excellently written, deep, and thought-provoking.

Aletheian always keeps you guessing and has crafted an album that is nothing short of breathtaking.  This is not some bandwagon release.  This is metal forged in the deepest tunnels of creativity.  It's like early Extol, At the Gates, Meshuggah, and Dream Theater had a collision and the four Aletheian members are the only ones who made it out alive.  If this album doesn't make the band huge, then metalheads haven't sold their souls to the devil...they've flat out sold their souls to stupidity.

Rating: 97/100   Review: Matt Morrow