By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Arlington death metal quartet The Famine can certainly talk the talk: Early last year, as the band set up to start recording its new, sophomore album, its members released a statement announcing a move toward a heavier sound, one that would "set a standard for metal that will stand the test of time the way others before us have." A bold statement, to be sure—one only made bolder by the further announcement that lead vocalist Chris McCaddon had left the band, his duties now falling to bassist Nick Nowell.
Somehow, despite the changes, The Architects of Guilt lives up to its own hype. Right from the album's start, The Famine show that they can walk the walk. Opening cut "The New Hell" hits like an uppercut to the chin: Drummer Mark Garza rattles away with an unrelenting, mind-blowing technical proficiency, crafting a fever-dream aesthetic that's completed by guitarist Andrew Godwin's swirling, snarling riffs. Nowell's shrieks of nightmarish glee, sitting just atop the music, hammer the idea home. "Oh, the horror!" he squeals in a voice that is neither particularly pleasing nor at all, one imagines, comfortable for him to summon. But it works: "We did this to ourselves!" he continues, before lyrically bemoaning the fervor of the Bible Belt and welcoming listeners to "your new hell."
Heady stuff—and material that certainly backs up The Famine's claims that, despite its label's Christian affiliations, they're no Christian band. Sure, hell plays a major role—Novell chides listeners on second cut "Ad Mortem," announcing that "there's a special place in hell for people like you"—but then again, such is death metal. And, as the album title confirms, the Famine's music is specifically intended to burden its listeners. To this end, the album's an undisputed success; it unloads accusation upon accusation upon its audience.
The only accusation one can offer in return is that this a band that is every bit as good as it thinks it is.