Augustine – Cinematic Masquerade

Aloha! Hawai’i could really never be described as a hotbed of the metal scene. There’s only really been a handful of bands from that distant state, so when I heard of Augustine, a five-piece heavy metal band out of Hilo, I was quite curious to investigate exactly what the island was releasing these days. I’m pleased to report that not only is Augustine a pretty unusual group, but they’re pretty damned good as well! A synthesis of various influences ranging from death to thrash to groove to metalcore, Augustine’s music is unique without sacrificing a solid core of heavy metal that is sure to please most fans of the genre.

This is music better described through elements rather than holistically. For instance: I like the frantically screamed vocals on the first couple tracks that remind me of Vio-Lence for some reason. I like the midpaced metalcore/groove riffing with lots of overrunning vocal lines, double bass trills, and chugging riffs. I dig some of the melodic ideas they have, like on the break a bit before midway through ‘Mind Thieves’ that speaks to tastefully employed rock influence, mostly evidenced through the writing of clever hooks and grooves. I really like the pure amount of variation, allowing the band to move through Cynic-like mellow portions into almost Strapping Young Lad-derived smashers like on closer ‘The Impossible’.’ It’s hard to get a grasp on the base elements of the music here simply because there’s so much going on; while it all revolves around the basic idea of post-thrash metal, it explores everywhere it can within that framework.

Augustine seems to be one of the new set of American post-Pantera bands that are influenced from essentially all metal genres but particularly whetted to none, creating music that seems to be made simply to be referred to as ‘metal’. There are weird elements even for that style though: the protracted end-song samples, the strange rhythmic shifts, the multitude of varying vocal styles that appear unexpectedly. In fact, that may be the very word that defines the music on ‘Cinematic Masquerade’: unexpected. The band seems to love to spring something unusual on you: where a natural conclusion might be reached through a climb in tempo or an extra dose of aggression, the band instead decides to drop the speed and add clean female vocals. It’s everywhere at once and speaks to a great deal of ambition and skill in the band members.

Flaws are present, of course. The album begins to drag a bit in the middle section, probably due to the placement of the most aggressive pair of tracks at the beginning. Sometimes the music seems unfocused, with too many ideas preventing a real clarity from coming to the songs, or perhaps more clearly, too many variations on ideas. A lot of the tracks seem rather samey at times: just like how too few ideas can make everything identical, so can too many, though not quite as severe as that language makes it out to be. The music, however, is propulsive and heavy enough to distract from these issues, always providing solid beats and riffs to offset the experimental kinks the band hasn’t yet worked out.

So my first genuine foray into Hawai’ian metal is a successful one. I’m hoping to see more coming from the island in the future, and from this band in particular; Augustine is clearly an artistic collective with a great deal of talent at their disposal. Recommended for anyone curious as to what one of the lesser known areas for metal is up to, as well as anyone who’s looking for something unusual yet with a grip on songwriting. Pretty good all around.

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~ by noktorn on August 31, 2007.

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