John Harju

Some of you may remember that around sometime this time last year, I did a review of Testimony of Apocalypse’s (whom I will refer to as ToA going forward, as I am a lazy typist) first album.  When I had done the review, I wanted to be very honest in how I approached it, and funnily enough, it resulted in me having conversations with all three members and getting the opportunity to get to know all three members on some level.    Despite my having some spicy thoughts on certain elements, they have requested that I review the upcoming album, The Offering. 

This review is of a pre-release digital copy of the album without the liner notes, so I won’t have my normal amount of knowledge as to who is doing what on each track, so I ask for grace in these matters.  Also, despite being provided a review copy of the album, I intend to purchase a physical copy to ensure a fair and balanced review (although I would like to extend my gratitude to ToA Drummer Paul Graham, for the honor of providing me with a review copy)

So, as previously mentioned, I had reviewed the previous album, and maybe I am being conceited (and I ask forgiveness if that is the case), but I feel like I was heard on this album.  Where the first ToA album was a great album, The Offering feels like a more focused album with a definite sound being pursued without having all the tracks come across as sounding “samey.” This sounds intentional and TIGHT.  I find that the music has evolved to a point where they are reaching for a more unrelenting feel while incorporating more melody.  It is a very lofty goal, which I feel that they achieve masterfully.

The last general thought that I have, before I dive into specifics, is that the production on this album is HEAD AND SHOULDERS above the last album.  It has more bite by comparison, and the instruments feel distinct from each other if you try to listen to specific parts, and the pan on the drums was done so tastily.

Now, what you need to know about this album is that their vocalist (Michael Torone) wasn’t able to make it onto this album for, based upon what I last heard, undisclosed personal reasons.  Both Nick and Paul, however, are returning, and there is a revolving who’s who of Christian metal vocalists that spans across the album, which tempts me to start calling these guys the Christian Expendables (all in good humor, I have nothing but respect for everyone on this album).  As previously mentioned, I did not have liner notes, so I do not know who is on which track (with the exception of one, but we’ll get there), so names have been omitted.  Now let’s dig in…

Track 1 – The Time Has Come

Wow.  What a re-introduction track.  This song will punch you in the face with the opening grind and then kiss and make up on the chorus.  This is the ultimate demonstration of what I meant earlier when I said that it sounds like they are intentionally becoming both more brutal and melodic.

Track 2 – When We Were Dead

Not gonna lie, the title of this track kept making me think if the Metallica song “Now That We’re Dead”, which was made funnier to me when I go to the guitar solo and there was a large section of it that sounded lifted out of “Sweating Bullets” by Megadeth.  That aside, I do very much love the groove of the track.

Track 3 – Dead Man Walking

OMG, the solo on this track is re-freaking-diculous.  The solo and the chorus on this son is really what sells it.  The verses are fine, mind you, but the chorus is a MASSIVE earworm and, again, THAT SOLO….

Track 4 – Ghost

this track starts with some very Slipknot sounding vibes but shifting time between 3 and 4 on a whim.  Then, from nowhere is a Dream Theater style breakdown.  It feels a lot like Nick and Paul had a lot of fun writing this song and that comes through in the music.

Track 5 – Heretic and the Adversary

Okay, I had mentioned that we would talk about which vocalist I knew was going to be on this album and this was it.  This track is hosted by Living Sacrifice’s original vocalist, DJ.  He sounds EXACTLY as he did on Nonexistent, but better. This is my favorite track on the album, and I think DJ makes up a large part of that.  The Clean vox on this track are also my favorite cleans on the album as well, and if that was DJ as well, that would be a first for me hearing him sing, and in that case, I wish he had done it earlier with Living Sacrifice.  This track also has my favorite solos on the whole album.

Track 6 – Holier Than Thou

This is another song title that took me to a similarly named Metallica song.  When I saw it in the track listing, I was thinking that they had done a cover, which I would have found to be incredibly interesting.  This was not a cover, though.  It is a super chunky Groove Fest set to a medium tempo.  This was smart track placement on the album, as the dynamic shift this track provides breaks up the intensity of what had been going on in the prior tracks.

Track 7 – Darkly Through Mirrors

I am uncertain if it was done intentionally to play with other metal genres, but the repetition of the opening chords on this track makes for a 90s industrial feel (I.E. Ministry or Static X).  It’s not an unwelcome shift, but it is a little unexpected.  The only real production knock I have with this album occurs on this track.  The first guitar solo just cuts out.  I know not all solos are recorded in a single take, as I have recorded a few myself. However, there is a very noticeable cut.

Track 8 – Fruit of the Enemy

Hope you are a fan of Lamb of God when this track comes on.  This whole song has a very Lamb of God feel to it.  The vocalist gives me Randy Blythe feels….  just… yeah. 

Track 9 – The Rescue

At this moment, I found out that Nick and Paul figured out how to make me time travel, as this song took me back to the early 2000s Hardcore/Metalcore scene. This feels like everything I liked about bands like Comeback Kid, Seventh Star, or Take It Back. This song would have benefited from the use of Gang vocals on the shouted choruses to complete the effect, but boy, does this track make me feel nostalgic. THEN, they got the nerve to drop into a melodic breakdown that gives a firm not to Mesmerized era Extol. Where DJ’s track was my favorite overall, I think this one elicits the most nostalgia/feels from me.

Track 10 – Watchman

This song wasn’t my favorite. It didn’t really fit in with the feel of the flow of the tracks that had brought us to this point. The vocalist doesn’t sound right for the track, and none of the individual parts of the track really stand apart from the others. It’s the only song on this album that I could genuinely say feels like filler.

Track 11 – Welcome to Control

I have no idea why, but this song feels entirely like something out of Operation Mindcrime era Queensryche with a guest appearance by a thrash vocalist. That’s not a bad thing, mind you. I REALLY dig this track if I am honest, but I think, in a perfect world, I would have hit up Jimmy P Brown II to do this track. I think that he would have been MAGICAL on it.

Track 12 – Majestad

Yes, this is a carry-over from the previous album. The most significant difference being improved production and vocals (as this was an instrumental on the previous album). The improved production on this album and the ability to distinctly separate the instruments while listening allows me to be able to hear some super tasty nuances in the bass an rhythm guitar on this track at the end.

Final thoughts:

Overall, this album demonstrates some very positive growth in musicianship since the last album. I wish I could have heard how Mike would have handled this album, but with the plethora of metal royalty that showed up in his stead, it is hard not to enjoy this offering. This album plays with a greater scope of metal sub-genres than the last album did. Still, the album feels incredibly focused because the vocal cornucopia provided was utilized intelligently and intentionally. Everything feels RIGHT, and this album is the evolution from the last album that you always want to see as a fan, with that being said. I give this album 4.75 out of 5 arbitrary numbers to define a subjective experience.