The Faceless: Autotheism

Autotheism is audacious in its quest to move away from the hyper-technical death metal that the Faceless have, up to now, based their career on.

The Faceless


Label: Sumerian
US Release Date: 2012-08-14
UK Release Date: 2012-08-13

Autotheism is a highfaluting term pertaining to the deification of one-self, and it's also the name bestowed upon the long-awaited follow-up to the lauded, Planetary Duality. It is a fitting title in view of the fact that vocalist Derek Rydquist, bassist Brandon Griffin, and guitarist Steve Jones have all departed in the four years between albums, leaving Keene standing alone as the chief orchestrator and founding member of the Faceless. To his credit, Keene has re-assembled the band efficiently, replacing the talents of the past with equally proficient musicians: vocalist Geoffrey Ficco, bassist Evan Brewer (Reflux/Animosity), guitarist Wes Hauch, and Lyle Cooper (who has manned the drums since the Planetary Duality days).

Taking into consideration such upheaval, Autotheism is audacious in its quest to move away from the hyper-technical death metal that the Faceless have, up to now, based their career on. It is a step into the unknown for a band which is evidently trying to forge a new identity -- by travelling into sonic space where few have dared to venture, and even fewer have succeeded in making their own. The emotionless, ultra-modern production and blinding, technical musicianship — overpowering in its ability to suspend disbelief — has been modified in favour of stylistic choices that have more in common with the genre-bending of Between the Buried and Me, than the tactics employed by their nimble-fingered brethren in Origin, Brain Drill et al.

This bold re-alignment can be heard from the first note of the fleeting dance of keys and semi-symphonic accoutrements that herald the beginning of "Autotheist Movement I: Create", bringing a slight sparkle of drama to the first movement of an ambitious three-part suite. "Create" resembles nothing if not an honest to goodness rock song — with more than a glint of Alice in Chains' dark afterglow. It is a judgment maker for those familiar with the work of the Faceless, and its controlled tempo and clean vocals are liable to betray those expecting constant, exhilarating density. "Autotheist Movement II: Emancipate" and the final part of this seventeen minute suite, "Autotheist Movement III: Deconsecrate", are equally adept at attention grabbing and less conflicting than "Create" — especially when compared to songs on the first two albums. Saying this, the blasting drums, cortex-shattering riffs, and dexterous lead work, are the only real signifiers of the past. For the most part, these two movements centre around derivative passages that make it hard to avoid playing the "name that band" game, including: the jazzy side-steps of Cynic; the weirdness of Mr. Bungle; unwinding saxophone and sections of clean vocals riding on top of blast-beats — synonymous with Ihsahn's solo output; and even some Opeth-ian grace found in the interplay between guitar and piano at the beginning of "Deconsecrate". Sadly, such obvious idolatry is extremely distracting, hard to ignore, and difficult to look past.

The songs that follow — "Accelerated Evolution" and "The Eidolon Reality" — are more in line with the form of old, with Ficco really asserting his presence by swiftly spitting his growls with a ferocious thirst. Those who disliked Keene's nasally vocals on "Sons of Belial" from Planetary Duality will definitely struggle with his grating chorus on "The Eidolon Reality". It's a prime example of unnecessarily overloading a structurally sound arrangement — the music which accompanies his halting singing losses the momentum that the first part of the song had garnered. However, no such criticism can be levelled at "Hymn of Sanity". It is death-metal at its most concise, lasting no longer than your average grindcore track, and proving to be just as lethal.

By the album finale, the Faceless sound as if they are about to find their feet. "In Solitude"'s opening coda lays Keene's strongest vocals on a bed of ruminative, clean guitars, before those complex cosmos-searching riffs and blasts takes over. The remainder of the song is just as interesting, especially the vocal interchanges between Keene and Ficco that appear midway, not to mention the guitar solo near the end, which tastefully emulates the vocal melody found at the beginning. Over the 38 minutes that comprises Autotheism, the Faceless do show glimpses of natural genius and their musical chops can not be questioned. Even so, the overall feeling that this album struggles to slip free of new found influences to resonate in its own right, will not fade. Unlike Between the Buried and Me (who balance their song-writing so that their influences disappear into the background), the Faceless are unable to prevent the presence of their inspiration from overshadowing their attempts at originality. Should the Faceless manifest the skills necessary to mask their muse, they may actually realize the potential they clearly possess.







Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."


The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.


Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.


The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.


Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.


King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.


Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.


Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.


Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.


The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.


Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.


The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.


'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.


Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.


Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.


South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.


Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.


'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.