"The Design"

(Metal Blade)

01. Century II
02. Empty Shell
03. Dead Before I Stray
04. Guardian
05. The Inexorable
06. Fortitudine
07. Beyond Treachery
08. None Shall Pass
09. Prologue…

RATING: 7/10

Behind that ugly-even-for-Metal-Blade artwork lies one snarling evil genius of a record! INTO THE MOAT is more of a science experiment gone awry than a band (see: SPIRAL ARCHITECT, DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, Canada's MARTYR, and throw in tangential influence everywhere from ATHEIST to GORGUTS to MESHUGGAH to MR. BUNGLE). And while the "laundry list of other bands" is a pretty lazy way to review a record, it's a safe bet that your ability to hack any of the above will be directly proportional to how much you like INTO THE MOAT.

When the deathly vocals kick in and "Century II" slams into "Empty Shell", there's a sad moment when it looks like INTO THE MOAT will ditch the ludicrous tech tricks they've been pulling and start playing hackneyed metalcore. Thankfully, they don't let up on the spazzy changes and gratuitous, over-the-top tempo shifts — I mean, if you're gonna do this sort of commercially annihilated look-at-me show-off-ery, you might as well make it as hilariously whacked-out as possible. Why hold back? It's not like you're gonna score a hit single off this stuff. And INTO THE MOAT cram all the aural gymnastics they can possibly stuff into this 32-minute clusterbomb, guaranteeing headaches for all but the most feral and devoted.

The little dropped-in jazzy interludes are nice — I haven't heard them used this effectively since CANDIRIA was still weird. Like that band's early output, INTO THE MOAT manage to be brutal and musical at the same time, never descending into pure white noise chaos even at their most caustic. I also detect a bit of tech-thrash influence from the early '90s (see: BELIEVER, old TOURNIQUET, HEXX), which may just be wishful thinking on my part since these guys are hovering right around drinking age. In the rare moments where the band isn't ripping your face off with technicality, they tend to slip into a generic metalcore sound — but give them twenty seconds and they'll be back to baffling you with labyrinthine changes and start-stop panic.

Rating reflects the usual "respect it, don't rock out to it" nature of such prog-grind cyborgs. I mean, who cracks a beer at the end of a hard day and risks a visit to the chiropractor by headbanging to this? There's nothing to INTO THE MOAT but angular grinding and showoffy technical dicking around – but they happen to be supremely good at it, and that'll be enough for a cult following of sunlight-deprived, sub-underground, Spock-eared math-metal technicians.


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