Oct 30, 2011

Mercy Screams "Broken Mirrors" Review

Genre: Heavy / Christian / Metalcore
Location: Fredericksburg
Rating: 7/10

When a band comes out and tells you they stand up in the name of Jesus Christ, you normally would expect a few guys with an acoustic guitar, a keyboard, and a tiny little jazz drum kit playing easy listening music that would put even the most die-hard Christian to sleep. Well, Mercy Screams aren't your typical Christian band. Instead of acoustic guitars, Shawn Thompson and Aaron Green play downtuned electric guitars with the amps cranked to eleven. Instead of a dinky little jazz kit, Kyele Shanahan is pounding away at the skins with frequent double bass, crash cymbals, and blast beats fast enough to leave your head spinning. Keyboards are absent, and instead of a soft, crooning voice, Jeremiah Hirsch opts instead for the death growl and a raspy scream reminiscent of Andy Atkins of A Plea for Purging. Sonny Hodgen fills out the low end with a full bass sound, increasing the intensity of Mercy Scream's breakdowns even further. This isn't your grandpappy's worship music, and they certainly don't play anything from the hymnal book in church. This is Christian metal that's too heavy even for Satan.

"Broken Mirrors" starts off with an Intro track that is sure to be a call to arms for all the two-steppers, moshers, and hardcore dancers at any show. A brief drum riff, panned guitars, and a sick bass drop kick off the beginning of a brutal assault, and this is just the first song! After this, it's on to the title track and first real song on the album, "Broken Mirrors." The song starts off with a melodic guitar interplay that gives way to a trem picked guitar riff backed up by blast beats that would be at home on any death metal album. Jeremiah comes in with a song about leaving behind past regrets and embracing a new life. I give kudos to the band for writing lyrics that can obviously be applied to a Christian life but aren't so preachy that they alienate any non-Christian fans. The song seamlessly shifts from heavy riffs to melodic, almost singable chords during the chorus. When I expected clean vocals, I instead heard Jeremiah's screams, which was somewhat of a letdown, but for Mercy Screams' style, it works for them and doesn't take away from the song. A good way to kick off the album. What follows is another half hour of hardcore brutality. Bone crushing breakdowns. Serrated-edge guitar riffs. Pounding drums. Bass drops fit to make your heart explode. It’s all there. Then, the eye of the storm hits with the beginning of the song "Other Side of the River." A man's sermon about the love of Christ opens the song, with light, melodic guitars providing the atmosphere. This band rocks it like A Plea For Purging, Parkway Drive, and For Today on some songs, but aren't afraid to tone it down to give the moshers some time to rest. My favorite songs would have to be the opener “Broken Mirrors,” the quick hardcore anthem “Bro Fest,” and the heartfelt album closer, “Other Side of the River.”

The only problems I have with the album are the lack of clean vocals where they could sound amazing, and the fact that a lot of what they do has been done before. This sound is so familiar and slightly overdone. While I won’t deny the talent and potential of Mercy Screams, the band must realize that there are dozens of bands that sound like they do and if they want to rise above the pack and be noticed, they have to do something that will make the doubters notice them. I’m a fan of Mercy Screams’ music, and I hope they grow and evolve and become a multi-dimensional band that covers all the bases that are to be covered in today’s heavy music scene and aren’t afraid to experiment.

Reviewed by: Justin Rodin