Caliban

The Awakening

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Seemingly incapable of making serious headway beyond the their already existing fan base, despite years and years of competently waving the melodic metalcore flag (a flag they helped knit in the first place), Germany's Caliban now appear hell-bent on just beating it to death -- rushing out album after album before the plastic even cools on the previous one. Just over a year has transpired since the group unleashed 2006's The Undying Darkness and, much like their chosen musical style as a whole, 2007's follow-up, The Awakening, feels like it's circling the wagons and storing provisions as though a final stand is at hand. As a result, the album is unquestionably Caliban's heaviest effort in some time, with bludgeoning, death metal-like tracks such as "Let Go," "Stop Running," "Life Is Too Short," and "Rise and Fight" rarely or never even bothering to indulge in metalcore's defining softer, melodic aspirations. And perhaps that's for the better, since, when they do, the material alternately sounds like well-meant but failed experiments (the title song's soundtrack trip, for example), retreads from better days past ("My Time Has Come," "I Believe"), or, worst of all, decadently emo-esque ("I Will Never Let You Down," "I'll Show No Fear," etc.). As much as suggesting a diminishing store of ideas on Caliban's part, these also leave one wondering whether the fundamental dichotomy of the melodic metalcore genre is simply finally breaking down (and many would indeed say that it never made sense at all). In the end, not even final mixing courtesy of Killswitch Engage's Adam Dutkiewicz -- normally a sure-fire popularity booster -- can do much for an album that, for all its competent delivery (yet again), still reverberates like a final gasp as metalcore marches inexorably toward the historical dustbin of once popular metal styles.

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