The Hinderers

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Daath's ambitious sophomore album, The Hinderers, already challenges a few musical conventions by meshing ample symphonic and electronic elements into an otherwise archetypal death metal sound -- but that's not even as surprising as their extensive lyrical immersion in Kabbalistic mysticism. Already in evidence on their self-financed first album from 2004 (the band's very name comes from the Hebrew word for "knowledge"), the subject seems to gather even more strength on this more fully realized Roadrunner debut, whose original ten tracks were expanded to 13 at their record company's request -- but not 11, never 12, lest the balance of the Sefirot (the Jewish tree of life) be disrupted. More importantly, though, The Hinderers largely succeeds solely on its aforementioned musical merits, providing equally satisfying physical catharsis for the head-banging faithful, as it does cerebral stimulation for those who actually care about all of this thematic mucky-muck. And so, pulverizing opener "Subterfuge" quickly establishes Daath's dense wall of sound, which is almost always democratically stacked with both guitars and synths, no matter how brutal subsequent offerings like "From the Blind" and "Ovum" may be. But the songwriting talents of keyboardist Mike Kameron (who is also secretly responsible for the vocals here, rather than stated singer Sean Farber) achieve even greater distinction on somewhat slower, more diverse explorations such as "Cosmic Forge," "Under a Somber Sign," and "Blessed Through Misery," which boast everything from gothic piano flourishes to pulsing industrial backdrops to eerie ambient atmospherics. All the while, the intricately sculpted guitar collaborations of Berklee-educated rhythm technician Eyal Levi and instinctive lead guitar wunderkind Emil Werstler complement Kameron's considerable orchestrating abilities perfectly, elevating them to their full flower on the title track and the awe-inspiring "Festival Mass Soulform." Yes, the techno robo-beat excesses found on "Who Will Take the Blame?" and particularly the suitably named "Dead on the Dance Floor" (later remixed by ex-Nine Inch Nails guitarist Danny Lohner) get a little out of hand, but it's still fascinating to observe how songs written primarily from a keyboardist's perspective serve to distance Daath's personal aesthetic from other electro-metal purveyors like Fear Factory, Tristwood, and Strapping Young Lad. That, and the aforementioned Kabbalah references, of course, which are used generously (though not exclusively) in lyrics that nevertheless rarely feel exclusionary in their messages -- and certainly don't require a numerology textbook to interpret (nor the Rosetta stone, like the work of Egyptian obsessives Nile). Therefore, by wedding the nerdy and the savage in their own peculiar fashion, Daath have carved an interesting niche within a niche that's likely to serve them well over many releases still to come.

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