Friday, April 15, 2011

General Lee - 2010 Roads

Band : General Lee
Album : Roads
Release Year : 2009
Genre : Atmospheric | Sludge | Post-Metal

Tracklist : 
01. When Vultures Descend to Feed
02. Torches
03. Control
04. Hunted (Ashes By The Dawn)
05. The Red Room.mp3
06. Those Of The Unlight
07. In Reverse
08. This Sea Breathes Evil
09. Roads

Flawlessly moving between post-rock, post-metal and hardcore General Lee are one of the next batch of twisted beautiful brutal bands to emerge from Béthune, France.

Almost everything that makes post-metal a genre that many love is displayed here, and everything is pulled off with the utmost precision: these guys know what they're doing. The vocals are predominantly harsh, hardcore-esque barks in the vein of Isis' Aaron Turner, and are pushed back in the mix enough to keep them from being the music's focal point, but not so much as to erase their impact. The guitars come up with riff after riff, many of which are some of the best the genre has to offer. The bass is a highlight here: while the music doesn't revolve around it as much as it does in, say, Intronaut, one could argue that the bass plays just as important of a role as do the guitars. Its riffs mesh with those of the guitars' perfectly, but always retain their own identity, as well as being incredibly catchy. The band also experiments with layers of ambiance over both the soft and the heavy parts: another aspect characteristic of post-metal.

This is post-metal at its purest and most skilled, so how can there be anything wrong with this record? The one aspect that marrs near every song on the album is excruciatingly simple: to put it very bluntly, the band lacks balls. It is pure post-metal, but one of the genre's most endearing aspects is its ability to build up emotion throughout a song and then to let it all out in a massively intense climax. General Lee rarely does this: instead, they skillfully build the emotion, but never truly release all the tension they've created. They have climaxes and crescendoes, but each one of them feels weak, cold, and sterile, and this could even be a simple matter of how heavy the band's willing to go.

This may sound incredibly shallow, but basically, General Lee needs to really get loud when loud is needed. They have peaks and valleys throughout, but while their valleys are masterfully executed, their peaks are never high enough. Whenever they play a climax, the guitars are at the same level of distortion they've been at throughout the song, and the drums have not heightened their intenstiy: in short, there is a distinct lack of passion. They need to learn that, for a lack of a better description, it is sometimes necessary to crank the distortion to 11 and to get really loud if they want to ever make a completely satisfactory song with the crushing climax that they constantly hint at but never pull off throughout the album's duration.

As stated before, this album really is frustrating, and I honestly feel guilt for giving this a rating as low as a "3." Near every guitar riff, bassline, vocal line, and drum fill is what legions of mediocre post-metal bands wish they could accomplish. But the thing is that they lack the ability to differentiate between restrain and the lack of passion that they display throughout the album. Sometimes music isn't about skill and precision: sometimes, to make a truly exemplary song, a band needs to go all-out, and let their emotions take over. Once General Lee makes this simple change of putting more power into their music, they can easily become one of the best bands in the genre, and their next album could ascend from merely passable to truly exceptional. We'll just have to see what they do next.

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