Deathcore is a hard genre that has a stigma attached due to so many generic bands that saturate the scene. Reflections’ latest release, Willow, exemplifies this issue as it does nothing special with its positive aspects or its sins. It will make for good background music if you want something heavy without any musical substance.
Synthetics opens up the record with a spotlight on Jake Wolf’s vocals while having a distorted background. The vocals set the tone for what’s to come, but I thought throughout Willow, Wolf’s voice from his death metal-inspired screams to more metalcore sound mixes well and gives much-needed variety. The instrumentation comes in spurts with equal amounts of distortion and a load of nastiness, giving me a false positive impression before I get smacked with underwhelming followups.
Coming straight into my face with its unapologetic violence comes From Nothing. The instrumentation is more pronounced, making an even landscape between the other members and their vocalist. A prominent bass compliments the distorted guitars in the neverending breakdowns and changing tempos. The vocals continue to shine with terrifying screams and haunting moments of talking.
Things seem to keep going relatively strong with the pounding percussive power of Psychosis. Relentlessly shifts gears with its messy structure that is heard throughout. It kept me on my toes without delivering on too much depth, a running theme that’s to come.
Ominous start with quiet bass and drumming before everything jumps in for the attack. The intro goes on for a while before vocals come in with brutally low screams that initially match the bass in tone. The cord gets cut off for an eerie break for room to breath before an even heavier second act. That eeriness lurks in the background then goes back into the shadows only to come back in other parts, keeping an unpredictability to the predictability of Isolation.
Going into a more hard-driving mindset, Marionette has a nice presentation that soon runs short. The relentless speed quickly gets boring and goes dry as this track loses anything else to say.
Dismal is the official point I realized this review will be rough as I had the rest of this record to digest. Despite changes in tempo and demonic vocals, it blends together with the methods executed in all of the previous songs so far.
The highlight of the record, and arguably the only good song comes from Samsara. Distant clean vocals with guitar work looming even further along with beats that pop in and out. The cleans and screams weave together as the drums keep up, leaving the guitars and bass behind. The contrast I needed to give me a breath of fresh air I needed to take in. The melody adds beauty to the hellish landscape, along with additional emotion that started to flatten out in the last few songs.
Empathy does not keep up with that level of experimentation. Like a drug addict out of rehab, it goes straight back into the dumpster to find a dirty needle. Has some melody thrown in the backseat, gets drowned out by the rest of the generic breakdowns. This is beyond boring right here.
Seven Stages keeps together a rhythm to the breakdown that makes for a satisfying flow. The lead guitar takes ahold of the song by not following the path that has been paved across the eight other tracks. Not enough to keep my attention throughout.
Illusionist at first leaves plenty of space with breakdowns for pockets of oxygen in the suffocating environment. Gets to a point where no breathing room is left between neverending riffs that go impossibly fast or the relentless drummer.
Some more areas of emptiness between the heaviness come in with Help. It ends up going in the same direction as other tracks without any distinctive characteristics. At this point, please send me some help.
Matching its name, Ghost has an atmospheric eeriness that has the right mood for a concluding track. Goes into some of the heaviest breakdowns accompanied by gruesome vocal work. It does not transition well, but it is a much-needed turn as the introduction went on for too long. The finale slowly dies off with a beating drum replicating a heart that I want to stop to end this record.
The only positive takeaway comes from the vocals matching the emotion to the songs. Even then, a negative immediately comes due to the lack of care I have for anything here, eliminating the soul that could flourish and does not in the end.
When done right, progressive metal can have so much depth to offer with its sound and variety. Reflections do not deliver the subgenre justice as the stigma against both deathcore, metalcore, and djent all come together in this mess. Willow does not commit any crimes too severe but enough to warrant an arrest.
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Image via Reflections