Philadelphia metalers Single Bullet Theory are not everyone’s preferred flavour it is fair to say but with the bands new and fourth album titled IV released via Goomba Music maybe that will change, and then again maybe not. They are a band that either work for you or not, apparently there does not seem to be a middle ground of simply just liking them. People either heap almost adulation like praise upon them or ridicule, especially in the media. After listening to the album and to be honest hearing the band for the first time it is obvious here is a band that creates some of the strongest rumbling riffs and technical skill heard anywhere infused with a diverse variation of sounds that sometimes work gloriously and in others moments leave the ears bewildered.
Formed in 2000 the new album sees the new line up of band founder and guitarist/vocalist Matt DiFabio with guitarist John Ruszin III and bassist Jeff Kalber, bringing a collection of songs that hit hard and stir up the senses. As mentioned there is a distinct and strong variety within the tracks that importantly should receive many listens before forming a view of the release, as at times they work instantly and in others simply confuse, but always they challenge and keep the listener off guard and alert which is commendable. There is no safety first aspect to Single Bullet Theory either, a trait so many other bands should pay attention to and adopt.
The band fuses a mix of metalcore, death metal, and thrash into a parallel palate of progressive and classic rock to bring something certainly different and intriguing, even when it does not work the urge is still to move to the next track and not to leave alone. The album opens on ‘Diabolical’, a pounding track rippling with deliberate intent to consume the ear, massive riffs and bludgeoning rhythms drive it perfectly. A dark slice of metal core based intensity that raises high hopes for what is ahead and shows straight off the quality and skill of the band as well as a no compromise attitude to their sound.
From the opener the anticipation was of a fusion of genres in the same vein as the recent Livarkahil album that bristled magnificently with a similar approach. The second track on IV deflated the eagerness unfortunately. ‘What Have I’ is a beast of a track, with unrelenting riffs, a great dark vocal delivery from DiFabio and stunning guitar work from he and Ruszin the track is immense until the switch to classic rock vocals and it simply stalls. As the whole album reveals Single Bullet Theory are second best to no one when they prowl and leap from their predatory and consuming dark hearts and it seems obvious if they stayed in that field of attack they would be leading the pack of like minded bands. They choose to do it their way and that should never be criticised but the mix of classic and black just does not sit well together. Obviously liking or not liking something is down to personal taste and the repeat plays of the album reveals more positives than negatives and admittedly an aversion to classic rock vocals is rife here at the Review, but that is the aspect that does not work as musically the band is impressive and enjoyable whatever flavour they bring.
It must be emphasised though that when the band veer away and assault from the darkness they are undeniably impressive and one can listen to them constantly and eagerly. For every track like ‘What Have I’, ‘The Wake of Betrayal’ and ‘Echoes of the Past’ which is a mess sadly the only word that can be used , there is the brilliance and striking power and strength of the industrial lined ‘Samsara’, the vibrant and aggressive ‘Hands of the Wicked’, the pulsating lumbering beast that is ‘Leviathan Smiles’, and the best track on the release in ‘Letting Go’ carrying a punk/gothic feel that reminds of bands like Type o Negative.
The bass of Kalber is stunning throughout the album bringing a deep and inventive pulse to the release, his lines and riffs delicious enough to make one drool. The same can be said for the epic near instrumental ‘Auctioneer of Souls’, a track as deep in length as in skill from not only the band but the likes of Tim Roth (Into Eternity), Jed Simon (Strapping Young Lad, Zimmers Hole), Mike Riggs (Scum of The Earth, Rob Zombie), Jeff Loomis (Nevermore, Sanctary), Jack Frost (Seven Witches), James Murphy (Testament, Death, Obituary) and many more, all contributing their talents and solos. The track is mesmeric and stays the right side of indulgence to satisfy any six string lover.
With the bonus tracks on the cd version of ‘The Hurt That Never Ends’ and a cover of the Death song ‘Spirit Crusher’, the album is overall enjoyable and worth recommending for investigation at the very least. When the band brings their aggressive nature veined with more power over extreme ideas, they wipe the floor with many other bands easily. It is the attempt to bring two separate and defined genres into a mutual working space that it loses cohesion and appeal. Many will adore it and many will shake their heads but make sure you do find out your own opinion as IV when it works is solidly agreeable and Single Bullet Theory one satisfyingly enterprising band.