Sep 13, 2011

Dead Letter Circus - This Is The Warning - 2011 - [REVIEW]

Genre: Alternative

1. Here We Divide
2. One Step
3. Big
4. The Space On The Wall
5. This Long Hour
6. Cage
7. Reaction
8. The Drum
9. The Design
10. Next In Line
11. Walk
12. This Is The Warning

By: Christopher Guinn
Sumerian Records built their name on the backs of crushing progressive metal acts like Born of Osiris, The Faceless, and Veil of Maya. For many this style of modern metal is synonymous with the Sumerian title. When one hears that, “so-and-so has signed to Sumerian Records,” the connotation has been that “so-and-so” is probably a pretty heavy band that enjoys their polyrythms.
For a few years that was a pretty safe bet, but in 2011 the sphinx is a bit of a different beast. Their roster has branched out substantially and now includes everyone from Stray From The Path to Borgore. Sorry internet metal nerds, but the term “sumeriancore” no longer holds any merit. To attempt to use it to actually describe a Sumerian band’s sound in 2011 is pretty pointless given the array of artists that now comprise their eclectic roster.
This brings me to one of the label’s latest acquisitions, Australia’s Dead Letter Circus. When I went to listen to their Sumerian debut This Is The Warning I had my expectations. I went into this review anticipating something “sumeriancore,” but only when when I pressed the play button did I realize just how obsolete the term “sumeriancore” has become, because what I heard was not what I was expecting.
My first conclusion was that this record definitely wasn’t something I’d call metal. It still has some balls to it a la some heavier grooves and emphatic crescendos, but it’s definitely not a metal album, so if you’re looking for some good ol’ fashioned loud and heavy This Is The Warning will probably leave you wanting more.
Given the fact that I’m reviewing this album for a website called “Total Deathcore,” the album didn’t have much of a chance from the get go. Not to slight it for being “un-metal” or anything, but this is a metal website so I was hoping for something a little more on the heavy side.
The album does however have some points worth praising. I can tell DLC definitely know how to play their instruments. The vocals are done well for this sort of thing, soaring at times, always melodic, they match the instrumental side of the band perfectly. Also the production value is on point, everything is clear and it’s mixed well, all of the little nuanced bits really cut through and I love that the bass is right up front with everything else. I enjoy the fact that Dead Letter Circus really revel in melody and like to explore with more ambient sounds as well, but when they do I’m reminded of their Sumerian Records counterparts who are better at playing with the same ideas.
While Dead Letter Circus have their punchier side (the glimmer of a ‘breakdown’ at the end of “The Long Hour” and the second half of “The Drum” for instance), their “heavy” side would hardly be considered such under the umbrella of metal. It’s punchy, but not punchy enough for someone who actively listens to much heavier music.

In sum, I was expecting a metal record and got something that sounds watered down. I’m sure this band could crank out some pretty interesting metal tunes if they wanted, but that’s just not their thing, and I can only give them so much flack for being themselves. Honestly I can’t really give them any flack for being themselves, I’m just recognizing the fact that at a metal website we want our metal!
I certainly respect this band for doing their thing, they do it well, it’s just not for me. For me this record had too much of a “Top 40” vibe too of it. I couldn’t shake the idea that Dead Letter Circus sound like an updated version of a band like Incubus, heavy where they need to be, but still friendly enough that most of suburbia will get behind it. For a label, having a band have an accessible sound that appeals to a wider mainstream audience makes sense, but if you, the consumer, are looking for something a little more on the brutal side of the spectrum, This Is The Warning isn’t your record.
I’d recommend you give it a listen anyway. Sumerian are clearly thinking outside the metal box these days, and I think that’s great. Perhaps if you approach this album with the same mentality you might really be into Dead Letter Circus.