Formshifter the new album from Colorado melodic death metallers Allegaeon is just one of those beasts that you can only be impressed by no matter which metallic flavour lines your heart most. It is quite simply a masterpiece of defence splitting aggression, mesmeric technical prowess, and blistering scorched melodies, that is not to mention the deeply manipulative grooves and tumultuous numbing riffage which drives each and every track. The album is immense, a ruthless incursion of ear and heart which leaves one in no doubt they have just experienced the mightiest and most invigorating storm.
Formshifter is the follow up to 2010 debut album Fragments of Form and Function, an album that put them on the metal map with force. Formed in 2008 by founding member and guitarist Ryan Glisan and soon completed with the addition of classically trained guitarist Greg Burgess, vocalist Ezra Haynes, and bassist Corey Archuleta, Allegaeon (pronounced: uh-lee-juhn) drew attention with their four tracked self-titled EP of the same year. 2009 saw them sign with Metal Blade Records and the eventual release of their critically acclaimed first album the year after. Following up such an impressive introduction to the wider world is always testing but they make it look easy as they return with an album that puts even that mighty debut in the shade.
Recorded at Lambesis Studios with Daniel Castleman (As I Lay Dying, Impending Doom, Carnifex, Winds of Plague), Formshifter splatters the senses against the cranium from the start with not only brutal intensity and insatiable grooves but also from the sheer class of their melodic invention. It never leaves one alone for a moment persistently barracking, provoking and captivating. It retains the core sound that made its predecessor so dominant but brings a fuller depth and uses a wider palate to create with. The band adds in multi sourced flavours to their melodic death metal spine without diminishing the tight powerful structure and strengths that make them Allegaeon; in fact they have simply just made them even more formidable.
The opening melodic beckoning of first song Behold (God I Am) sets one up majestically for the soon to follow wall of destructive intensity, and riffs that cripple the senses within seconds. It is a rampant muscular assault that leaves no avenue twisted and escape route blocked with its mountainous intensity. With solos which leave flesh as cinders the track is a stunning start to the album and yet not even close to be the best track on the album.
The following Tartessos: The Hidden Xenocryst explores inner corners you did not know existed as its grooves search out every shadow for the stunning guitar invention to glow within. Not one for over blown guitar play or constant solos it is still impossible not to be blown away from the imaginative and glorious creations from Glisan and Burgess, the latter one of the finest guitarists around and with the discipline and skill to stay well away from indulgence. Throughout the vocals of Haynes growl and crawl all over the emotions with authority, emotion and venomous spite veining every track with a harsh intensity.
Every song on the album is a ravenous predator upon the ear mauling with titanic riffs and melodic ingenuity that lights every pore. The likes of the unrelenting bruising Iconic Images, the viciously clawed The Azrael Trigger a track which twists and torments the senses until you have no idea what day it is, and the infection spewing From The Stars Death Came, all leave one a breathless husk as they devour every synapse and feeling. It is with Twelve – Vals For The Legions though that the band ignites the most ravenous fire within. It immediately consumes with a groove which tantalises and excites whilst wrapping it in a fury of rhythms and riffs to bring any stiff kneed recipient to the floor. Contagious and intimidating the song prowls the ear as the guitars eagerly offer a mesmeric sonic intrusion with a final captivation coming from the brief Latin classical guitar insertions which invite nothing but the deepest affection. As the track drops its final colossal note it transforms into a wonderful guitar instrumental, the classical heart and skill of Burgess irresistible, and though the piece feels unrelated to the song it aligns itself to it is a deeply satisfying moment on the album to match the song itself.
Formshifter is immense and Allegaeon a metal giant, the album is the proof so now is the time to go and be impressed.