Formed many a moon ago under the guise of CRUTCH by BECOMING THE ARCHETYPE guitarist, Alex Kenis (who recently split from BTA to focus his attention the project at hand), ALETHEIAN have been shopping this ten-song platter of progressive death around since 2005. Originally released by the indie Christian death label, Hope Prevails Productions, "Dying Vine" has been recently been repackaged and set for large-scale release by Metal Blade sub-label Ironclad Records. Although the Internet would make it entirely possible for this jewel amongst stones to reach the ear of its intended audience, the backing of a label like Metal Blade should give the disc the credibility needed to see the name ALETHEIAN ranked deservedly close to the likes of DEATH or ATHEIST.
A powerful opening track if there ever was one, "Paragon" lets you know right off the bat what this band's strong points are. Superb musicianship, particularly in the four-armed Chuck Schuldiner-esque attack employed by Kenis and his partner Donny Swigart, and the intelligently hectic sense of structure heard throughout the disc are qualities that immediately grabbed my ears. That being said, the album's weaknesses are also brought to light right away. I found myself less than impressed with the overall quality of production on "Dying Vine". The sound was just a bit too flat and even muddy at times. While precision playing of Kenis and Swigart, or the urgent drumming of Joe Walmer suffered very little, the impact of said performances would have been stronger had more attention been paid to the album's overall mix. Vocally, aside from the distorted shouts that kick things off, Joel Thorpe doesn't quite deliver the dominance I'd expect from someone fronting a band of this breed. His phrasing is on par with his bandmates and his growl is as harsh as any, but ultimately his voice seems to ride behind the music and ferocity is noticeably sacrificed. Similarly, the clean vocals provided by Kenis come across as almost non-existent at times. Of course, these little gripes of mine mean almost nothing when you delve into the technical wizardry at play on this disc. "Broken Legacy" and "An Open Grave" not only give Walmer a chance to show off his jazz fusion-based, frenzied stop n' go double bass abilities, but sees the guitarists harmonizing like men possessed. Other songs on the disc are equally as good, however the somewhat linear (and perhaps too hectic at times) structures in which they are laid out made following along a bit difficult at times. Showing further tribute to their masters before them, ALETHEIAN close the album out with a fairly accurate cover of CYNIC's "How Could I". While this isn't the highest point heard on "Dying Vine", the band does the original a decent amount of justice with their rendition.
There aren't too many bands out there today that can pull off this brand of pure, progressive death metal quite like ALETHEIAN have with "Dying Vine". By that, I mean that you won't hear any of the modern 'core' flourishes that you would on a BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME album, or anything of that ilk. ALETHEIAN don't really take from the book of DEATH, ATHEIST or CYNIC as much as they add their own chapter to said tome. As much as I enjoyed "Dying Vine", a more focused and better produced effort from this group of musicians would have the potential to be a classic.