Written by Kep
Fleshbore – Embers Gathering
Technical death metal from Indiana, USA
Releasing August 13 via Innerstrength Records
When I download a new promo for review, I always put it on my phone so that I can listen wherever I get the urge. In the car, doing yardwork, hanging out on the porch, exercising—whenever I decide “hey, I should give that a listen,” it’s ready to go. Sometimes when I can’t decide what to listen to and stick my library on shuffle, I’ll catch a new track for the first time completely out of context. It’s like a surprise blind date. That was how I met Fleshbore’s Embers Gathering: track 6, “Revivified”, unexpected and unplanned. Like a good date does, it left me wanting to know them a whole lot more.
“Revivified” features a super catchy asymmetrical main riff with constantly shifting meters that immediately caught my ear, and I had fun feeling out the beats so I could bob my head appropriately. It goes like this: 4/4, 7/8, 4/4, 3/4, 4/4, 7/8, 4/4, 4/4, and it grooves like hell even though it’s not in a simple meter. I played the track through to the end, taking in the rapid-fire vocals, the squeaky-clean drumwork, the surprisingly thoughtful middle section, the tightly twisting guitars. And I thought to myself, “Damn, I wonder if the rest of the album is as cool as this?”
Turns out it totally is.
Fleshbore is still early in their career, given that they formed in 2017 and the current lineup has only been together since 2019. Embers Gathering is the Indianapolis-based five-piece’s first LP, and it follows a 2018 EP (Malignancy) and a 2017 demo. The point here is twofold: 1) these guys have room to grow and are still coming into their own, and 2) even considering that the album is really impressive.
Press play on first track “Momentum (Intro)” and you’ll be treated to a dreamy, pensive opening that morphs seamlessly into a driving assault led by Michael O’Hara’s throaty roar and drummer Tyler Mulkey’s lightning fast double bass. The guitars tremolo pick a vicious unison riff to begin, and it’s over 60 seconds before something feels truly “techy,” but when guitarists Michael McGinley and Cole Chavez break off into a speedy acrobatic lick that could’ve been pulled straight from Planetary Duality, the picture of what Fleshbore is all about starts to come into focus. Not to be outdone, bassist Cole Daniels takes center stage about two minutes in, winding a memorable solo beneath the same dreamy chord progression from the song’s first few seconds. “Momentum” is a short-ish song, but it’s more than enough to get the hooks in.
At seven tracks and a bit over 30 minutes, Embers Gathering is about the perfect length, and it’s well-paced as well. There’s an air of maturity all around this album, from the art by Riaj Gragoth of Luciferium War Graphics which depicts dignified mystical figures aboard a calm boat in a swamp, to the way that the tracks vary in tempo and style and steadfastly resist sounding too similar, to the restraint shown in not jam-packing every song with rhythmic trickery and hyperactive technicality. It’s technical death metal, but it will absolutely appeal to more than just technical death metal fans. Fleshbore are really writing beyond their years here. There’s no questioning their abilities, but they don’t insist on throwing them in your face; the riffs are surprisingly subtle and speak for themselves, and the songs allow space for the listener to breathe.
I suspect that everyone who listens to this one will have a different favorite track, since each one is super appealing in its own way. Lead single “Careless Preacher” leans on those quick-fire vocals and a twisting, stretching little melody in the guitars. “Cynicism” is a mid-tempo affair, with thick-toned chugs and a bit of a more traditional death metal approach. Fleshbore doubles down on that less rapid, more brutal aesthetic with “The Scourge”, an evil track with grim atmosphere and heavy chugs alternating with wicked unison guitar licks. The title track kicks things back into true techdeath style, with flying riffs whirling into the ether, blistering drums driving a supersonic tempo, and breakneck vocals that’ll make Archspire fans perk right up. After “Revivified”, my blind date track, the album wraps with “One Thousand Hands”, a groove-heavy number with some hefty rhythmic chunk, plus one particularly memorable rising chromatic riff that’s not quite like anything I’ve heard.
All the band members play their asses off, and I particularly love the variety of quality tones that McGinley and Chavez get out of their guitars. O’Hara is a very talented vocalist whose quick deliveries will grab you by the ear, and Mulkey is precise, speedy, and full of energy behind the kit. Daniels deserves a special hat tip for how much his bass adds: it grounds the esemble with a weighty, warm sound, and his licks and solos are some of the coolest moments in the runtime. There’s a lot of great songwriting on this album, but one of the smartest things they do is give metal’s most neglected instrument the chance to show off.
There are nits to pick here and there, like how a couple of the songs lose a little steam in their back halves, or how the album ends on a pretty abrupt note and could probably use a little postlude and maybe an interlude earlier on. But the issues to be found are all of the minor sort, and the production is outstanding. Overall this is unquestionably a damn good package.
Make sure you set aside some time on August 13 to spin Embers Gathering, whether you’re a fan of techdeath or not. If this is any indication, Fleshbore is about to drop the first full-length of a memorable career.
Favorite track: The Scourge
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