Long thought dead, North Carolina’s Confessor has arisen, rolled away the stone and reemerged to walk the earth. In a thrust of cruel irony, what inspired the band’s reincarnation was the death of guitarist Ivan Colon. The surviving members reunited to play a benefit show for Colon’s family, who were left with a stack of medical bills. Confessor went on to record and self release the Blueprint Soul EP, which quickly sold out and caught the ear of Season of Mist. The band tantalized fans a second time with the recent Sour Times EP, which was actually more geared as a promotional tool announcing the band’s impending album. The three new songs found on one or both of these EPs (“Blueprint Soul”, “Sour Times”, and “Hibernation”) gave fans, as well as most critics, more than enough reason to feel cautiously optimistic that Confessor could put together a full length comeback effort that wouldn’t pale in the unforgiving light of the band’s only full length, the 1991 classic, Condemned. They’ve done just that–comeback albums simply don’t get any better. Not only will Unraveled be well received by most fans of Condemned, but the band’s revamped style is also sure to win them the support of both a new generation of fans as well as older listeners who were intrigued by the band but fell into the latter category of Condemned’s love it or hate it charm.
“I’m not the person I used to be” wails Scott Jeffreys in “Sour Times”, and he sure doesn’t sound like the same person. Gone are the wild, high pitched vocals that were at the heart of the divisive nature of Condemned. They’ve been replaced by a unique, but more accessible, lower registered, controlled approach that was a necessary change to suit the material, but also should please most listeners. The fact that “Sour Times”, as well as portions of other songs, is built predominantly around Jeffreys’ vocals, as opposed to the old approach of providing an accompanying voice to the band’s technical whirlwind, shows just how much this band has matured. Similarly, the music has been revamped, and while less technical and chaotic than the band’s prior work, Unraveled still boasts a unique style and judicious use of technical prowess that eludes most bands. Attempting to assign precise labels is futile, but in general terms, Unraveled is technical, unconventional doom, that will appeal to a much wider audience than the doom contingent. It’s easy to point to several tangible shifts between Condemned and Unraveled, but part of what makes this album so compelling is a centeredness that is more difficult to describe. Whereas I’ve always found Condemned to provide a passionate, but largely cognitive experience, Unraveled resonates in a much deeper and more soulful place. Gloriously emotive without becoming morose or even mopey, and balancing complexity and tradition in a way that makes the album an engrossing translation of a universal language, Unraveled has an x-factor that makes it a one of a kind.
Songs like “Blueprint Soul” and “Sour Times” emphasize the band’s doom leanings, while “Hibernation”, “Down Side” showcase more technical tendencies, especially the inventive and unpredictable drumming of Steve Shelton . While little if any of the new material eclipses the three songs released in the last year, it’s impressive that all of the songs are similarly convincing. The band even added as an untitled bonus track a reworked version of the title track of their first demo, 1987’s The Secret, a song that also appeared on 1990’s Metal Massacre 10. Confessor was shortchanged the first time around, but hopefully this effort will receive the attention it deserves. The fact that the band has released two albums, so different yet so equally impressive, fourteen years apart is amazing. One of my favorite albums of the year.