As a music critic, I often face this dilemma when I am sent an album I would never willingly listen to in my personal time. The easy thing to do would be to tear it to shreds for failing to be in line with what I consider to be good music (and trust me, I listen to some awful music). But it’s also part of my job to bite my tongue and try to find the flakes of gold in a turd. Is the music objectively bad, or did the band just have the misfortune of having their album reviewed by an elitist metal snob?
Today’s struggle is brought to you by Aegis, the debut EP by Montreal band The Altruist, who describe themselves as “modern metal with electronic influences.” Within the first 30 seconds of the opening track “No Guiding Light,” I have to fight all instincts to shut it off when I hear the high-pitched whine of vocalist Jeremy Duarte. It pays off to listen a little longer though, as Duarte intercuts his melodies with a guttural roar that rattles in his diaphragm. I live for those few precious moments.
Almost every song begins with the hum of a synth, only to be immediately drowned out once the drums and guitar kick in. Listening to the single “Unyielding,” the synth is deceptive, as it doesn’t play a bigger role other than setting a cinematic mood. I’d rather get my synth fix from watching a bunch of 80s movies.
Djent is a complicated subgenre that I still haven’t completely wrapped my head around. It requires a lot of technical coordination between the guitarists and drummer. There’s a balance of palm-muting and shredding, in beat with the double-kick drum. But the Altruist pull it off, probably after multiple takes in the studio to make it sound flawless.
Looking at the title of closing track “God of Creation” (which features Ludovick Daoust of Fractal Cypher on the piano), it makes me wonder “is this a Christian metal band?” It would explain a lot since the Altruist’s style builds on the legacy of Underoath, Norma Jean, and As I Lay Dying (though I don’t think Tim Lambesis is allowed in Heaven anymore).
I can’t deny the talent of The Altruist, nor can I say anything against the stellar production value on Aegis. It might be interesting to see if it translates well into their live performance, but truth be told, I’m looking forward to never having to listen to these songs again. I could do without the pop and electronic elements. It’s just not my cup of tea (and I’m not that big on tea, either). However, what might sound like nails on a chalkboard to me might sound ground-breaking to someone who finds real metal too spicy.
Written by Chris Aitkens
*edited by Danielle Kenedy