Originally written by Ramar Pittance
Elizabethton, Tennessee’s The Showdown have taken on a hell of a task. They’re an American and Christian band attempting to play melodic death metal and still be taken seriously by metal fans. What do you wager their chances are? Taking into account the stubbornness of the average metalhead, I’d say extremely slim. However, if I were to make my wager based solely on the talent of this band, I’d say they’re a near shoe-in for success.
Featuring a dual guitar combination that runs the gauntlet of influences from In Flames to Shadows Fall, with the oft dash of .38 Special and Pantera, Josh Childers and Travis Bailey are clearly versed in the book of Gothenburg, however, they seemed to have skipped the chapter on lifeless repetition of uninspired riffs and melodies. “A Monument Encased in Ash” commences the album with some pummeling power chords and a guitar lead similar to those found on the openers of the latest Sceptic and Disillusion albums. The band showcases the brunt of what they are capable of on this track. Anthemic choruses, fist pumping power riffs and a groove-laden breakdown that betrays the band’s Dixie roots. Consistent on tracks like “Epic: A Chorus of Obliteration” and “Dagon Undone” is The Showdown’s knack for writing hooks and rousing choruses that are instantly memorable. There’s no false artistry or pretension on display here. For some this may serve as a warning sign that the fare offered by The Showdown is not substantial enough to keep them satisfied beyond a few initial listens. And, for those looking for something that splits the corners of the proverbial box, then they may be well served in following these premonitions. However, behind The Showdown’s seemingly simplistic catch and hook approach is a songwriting savvy uncommon of this genre that makes continual spins worthwhile, if only for the opportunity to bang your hand and sing along one more time.
A Chorus of Obliteration ventures to depict the final battle between good and evil. A tale many metal bands have undertaken, but The Showdown’s portrayal of this tale is unique for two reasons. First, the scope of their compositions actually lives up to the epic nature of the story it wishes to tell. Second, The Showdown are the “good guys.” That’s right, as opposed to assuming the apocalyptic avenger role found so commonly on death and black metal albums, this story is actually told from the perspective of a band of warriors fighting for the light. This may come as a turn off for the many who regard Metal as the singular domain of Beelzebub. However, The Showdown mostly avoid any morality tales and Bible thumping and basically stick to the story. Which, surprisingly, is extremely well told. Davey Bunton’s lyrics are befitting a tale of this magnitude. These lines from “Hell Can’t Stop Me Now” should erase images of Stryper you may have running through your head.
Fling wide the gates of hell
And drape the sun in blackened wings
Breathe deep the sulfur
Now grip your sword and hold your ground
The well crafted lyrics are done justice by the band’s tri-vocal attack, reminiscent of the death/hardcore/clean formula that worked so well for Shadows Fall on their first two albums.
Unfortunately, the closing ballad “Laid to Rest” finishes things off on a slightly sour note. This is where the band plays their cards a little too far from their chest. They let forth with a somewhat unsavory dose of sappy sentimentality that, while serving as the logical conclusion to the immense yarn the band attempted to spin, is far removed from the balls out metal assault found throughout the rest of A Chorus of Obliteration.
The minor stumble at the finish line only slightly detracts from the overwhelmingly solid effort by The Showdown. In addition to being clearly adept musicians who know how to write catchy tunes, the band also proves capable of overshadowing the bubblegum metalcore tag by writing heartfelt songs that actually warrant the listener lending an attentive ear. A commendable release that comes highly recommended to those still holding out for solid melodic death metal in the year 2004.