Originally written by Erik Thomas
This is gonna disappoint a lot of people, so if you have already brought into this band’s hype and are satisfied; go for it. Me? After initial excitement and general satisfaction, multiple listens of this Oakland band’s debut eventually lead me to consider this pretty average and rather disappointing.
Supposedly creating a revitalizing mix of hardcore, thrash, crust, punk and grind, the band’s promotional information would lead you to believe that Watch Them Die is the musical messiah. While certainly energetic (although I’ve heard their live show is far more dynamic than their recordings) and intense, this album left me pretty empty, and to these ears is missing a lot of the elements they claim to purvey. All I hear is typical hardcore and A LOT of thrash, the end result is almost a modernized thrash sound that the Europeans have perfected, but with a slight hardcore lean. It’s choppy, abrasive and bold, but ultimately the songs never fully satiate my desire for tight thrash or invigorating hardcore. And as for grind, I’m not sure where that influence surfaces, other than the infatuation with samples.
So, on Watch Them Die you get 7 (yes, seven), lengthy songs tinged with metal’s darker subject matter, but essentially delivered with an oxidized Bay Area sound. The scathing rasp and bellow of Patrick Vigil’s vocals could be construed as hardcore, as could some of the guitar work, but still at its heart this is a thrash album, despite its attempts to cast a pall of psychotic imagery and grim lyrical themes. The music never seems to match the morbid passion of the lyrics, with only the eight minute album closer “Resurrection”, creating the claustrophobic atmosphere that the whole album tries so hard to create. The rest of the songs, often introduced with cryptic (movie) samples cover expected tight, crunchy, yet caustic thrash territory, but nothing as scene imploding as the band of the label would have you believe.
“The Struggle” initially hints at something vast and foreboding with its bombastic opening, but reverts to expected frenetic gallop of Slayer. “Too See You Bleed” offers up some of the metalcore dual guitar work that I’d been waiting for, but only succeeds in teasing, as it soon morphs into predictable mid paced chugging. Literally those three moments alone had me anywhere near interested. Appreciative, yes, but not about to anoint them saviors.
The other thing that bothered me slightly was the production, mainly the guitar tone. While up front and crunchy, it’s way too high in the mix, and it seems TOO forced, like they wanted to sound as harsh as possible, but it ends up being somewhat grating after prolonged listening.
I’m sure many of you will decry this review and many lashes are expected, but to be frank, US metal has scene some bands raise the bar somewhat (Unearth, Between the Buried and Me, Symphony in Peril, Hamartia), and with their musical hybrid that plays the hardcore card while trying to instigate a nostalgic vigor of Bay Area’s storied past, Watch Them Die is simply looking up at the bar wishfully.