Written by: TL on 31/03/2009 12:19:16

Today's metaphorical head on the chopping block comes in form of "Reflections", the sophomore album from North Carolina metallers Seneca, and to get things started, let's run a quick checklist on it shall we? Overload on br00tal breakdowns? Check. Majority of vocals growled harshly? Check. Melodic sections reminiscent of Misery Signals? Check. Unnecessary ambient intro track? Check. Mellow acoustic track right in the middle of things? Check... I could go on, but I figure you get the point. "Reflections" does in fact check off all the essential boxes needed for a totally generic and annoying deathcore record.

Does that mean that it is and we can call it bad and call it a day then? Not exactly, because fortunately for Seneca, "Reflections" has its fair share of redeeming moments too. To paint a more accurate picture of what's going on here, imagine Seneca as a machine of musical output which has three different settings. "Br00tal", "Show off" and "Melody". When the mode is set to "Br00tal" things are indeed as annoying as you might expect, with pretentious breakdowns and senseless ruining of momentum enough to get all your deathcore alarms ringing loudly. Were it not for the other 'modes' providing variety into the soundscape, this record would have struggled to attain a 5 in this review.

That is exactly what they do however, with the "Show off" mode represented in numerous moments of blistering guitar work, where you can hear guitarists Ryan and Joe's fingers race up and down their fretboards in manners that wouldn't feel out of place on records by Protest The Hero or With Passion. The real treat is in the "melody" parts though, because here the band indulges us with some more traditional metal(core) elements that are much more sweeping and captivating. As soon as this happens, and the vocals are also variated with clean singing in the veins of bands like Dead Poetic or Emanuel, the songs actually have you all aboard the crazy train, nodding and singing along.. Until the next break comes along and ruins the party that is.

Symptomatic for the record is a song like "The 29th Day". Starting off super pretentious, it invites you to write it off within seconds, but then you start noticing the intricacy of the shredding and then, before you know it, a melodic metal part has manifested and you're actually enjoying what you're hearing. That is until around 2:30 where the track is then cast into senseless chaos for no discernible reason, making the last minute of it okay to just skip. The following "Creator" is probably the worst thing on here, as it is the most concentrated chugga-chugga failing-to-sound-convincingly-like-Converge track on offer. Thankfully it is followed immediately with "Your Heart In My Hands", the track featuring the most melody and metal and the least core, standing out as my personal favourite of the record, along with songs such as "Black Gold" and the mellow interlude "Illusions".

To sum up, I think I've made it clear that I'm not a fan of Seneca's tendencies towards breakdown-core. I don't mind things being broken up by some heavy or chaotic parts on occasion, but I think it has to make sense and take the listener into the fray, and that I don't feel like Seneca are doing well enough just yet, and until they are, I prefer them when they just stick with playing more traditional metal with a bit more flow in it. As for this album I can say for certain that it probably won't be finding its way back to my playlist very often. When it does though, I find it unlikely that it'll get skipped, because it is still rather enjoyable after all.

Download: Your Heart In My Hands, Black Gold, Illusions
For The Fans Of: Eternal Lord, Misery Signals

Release Date: 30.03.2009

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