RIDDLEBREAK – Architeuthis

RIDDLEBREAK – Architeuthis

In the limited genre that is metalcore, (usually a metalized hardcore rather than hardcorish metal) it is very difficult to find a unique act, and that typically means progressive slant. Between The Buried And Me, Misery Signals and Burst come to mind all three influential to the South African sextet Riddlebreak, formed 11 years ago and consisting of Laura Atkinson (violin) Julian Vosloo (lead guitar) Jade Osner (vocals) Gordon Bosma (drums) Roushan Van Niekerk (bass) and Gareth Reed (rhythm guitar, backing vocals). The EP is a continuation of the stylings present on the excellent debut "Collapsar" (2016) on one hand and a deviation into a more progressive and neoclassical direction which slightly comes at the cost of songwriting focus and catchiness. However, the musicianship has been significantly upgraded especially the violins which often recall MY DYING BRIDE in, what is essentially still a metalcore offering.

One of the best of the four tracks on offer, the djenty TOOL by the way of MESHUGGAH "Eyes Of The World Ender", about how our closest loved ones (like war) can bring the best but also the worst in us, is a primary example of the mastery of violins I mentioned earlier. Ms. Atkinson skilfully mimics Mr. Reed’s riffs which is no small feat to pull off as the riffs themselves are pretty mathematical even without Mr. Vosloo’s abundant and constant leads. Clearly we’re not going for commercial "hits" here but rather for enormous musical expression that is neoclassically emotive, yet the favorite ""The Hog", which teaches us to not judge books by their covers, is the most focused and catchiest song in Riddlebreak’s history, full of melodies and harmony yet never shying away from brutally syncopated riffing, probably the most BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME or MISERY SIGNALS in sound, feeling and structure. And it starts out eerily acoustic only to wax full on death metall-ish with these caustic THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER screechy vocals, but it surprises with progressive transition a’la MARILLION’s "Misplaced Childhood", it’s probably most varied track as "Eyes Of The World Ender" is the most progressive.

The single weak link in "Architeuthis" (which means a giant squid) is "A Momentary Brightness", a short KILLSWITCH ENGAGE-sque miniature of all reasons metalcore can be boring and unimaginative. Although it is, admittedly, still excellently executed, it lacks the robustness of violins or complexity of the other tracks, but that would be enough for a 5/6, while, to these ears, the overall abundance of ideas overwhelms the listener who looks for a lingering melody or a riff. In fact, after 5 applications the only things that get stuck in the mind are the melody and riff to the opener "Allegiant", which, itself, is a primary example of the aforementioned problem. Riddlebreak described their sound as that of "an injured bear hurtling through space" and, as far as the intensity is concerned, it’s probably just as well that this is a 4 track EP as you probably couldn’t handle a full length assault on your heart.

Riddlebreak definitely have something unique to offer which was already evident on "Collapsar" but they need to tighten the songwriting in "The Hog" image while focusing on more consistency in hooks vs. brutality. I am looking forward to the full length.