Hardcore albums never sound this perfect, nor do most death or black metal albums for that matter. In fact, it would not be a stretch to announce this as the holy grail of the new breed of European metal-influenced hardcore that has sprung up recently with the likes of Shadow's Fall, Darkest Hour, Red Roses for a Blue Lady, Sevenday Curse, All That Remains, and several others. Upon initially listening to this CD, many might require essays to describe the utter awe and complete mind-trip this album is likely to reign over them. Maybe it is comparable to those first Heartwork, Left Hand Path, Slaughter of the Soul, or In the Nightside of Eclipse experiences, jaw-dropping affairs that change listeners' views of music -- in said genre of course. Defying every expectation set upon the hardcore genre, The Stings of Conscience draws upon the bottomless pool of European metal talent (plus the occasional overt American influence) and melds it with traditional hardcore. The result brings about the most blissfully indulgent, entrancing, and overall greatest hardcore release ever. After a pleasant but normal opening track, the unleashing of terror and technical dismay arrives on "One Step Away," when the lead guitar suddenly bursts into a sparkling array of repetitive siren-like guitar harmonics, almost George Lynch-ian in nature minus 110% of Dokken (if that makes any sense). From this point on, one becomes enthralled, with attention completely taken for the entire duration of this blistering album. "Only the People" throws out the first blatant influence when, strikingly right in the middle of the song, the guitars break into the all-too familiar upbeat In Flames gallop. The centerpiece title track reads as a musical bible for who's who in '90s extreme metal. Rapid-fire Children of Bodom guitars begin the event, quickly shifting from In Flames riffery to the progressive head-shifting artistry of Cynic and Atheist. Soon the guitars flourish into a thick Gothenburg-esque movement that could have easily been culled from Eucharist's Mirrorworlds, before shifting back into progressive hardcore territory. Sound of Perseverance-era death rises forth, as syncopated drums guide the music into a flourishing Mike Amott-Carcass meets In Flames finish. Whew! You get the picture, but to paint it clearer, here are several other influences you are bound to stumble across on The Stings of Conscience: Naglfar, Dark Tranquillity, Meshuggah, At the Gates, Soilwork, Only Living Witness, Katatonia, Opeth, and countless more. Even if it is for a brief moment, they exist regardless of whether or not this unknown American hardcore band from Massachusetts intended it to be so. Vocalist Trevor Phipps has a traditional hardcore rasp, interspersed with clean segments that recall Poison the Well's finer moments. At the same time, the tight and busy drumming of Mike Rudberg and the bass work of Chris Rybicki are the rhythmic glue that makes the twin-guitar dynamics of Buz McGrath and Ken Susi sound so damn profound. Eulogy strikes again! What are you waiting for? Go buy this, now!
The Stings of Conscience Review
by Jason Hundey