In a review of WITH PASSION's debut album, "In the Midst of Bloodied Soil", I noted that it seemed the band's technical death/metalcore style lacked some direction, although impressive from the aspect of musicianship. Though in no way a bad album, a slight lack of songwriting focus and seeming confusion over direction left it lacking. It's amazing what a complete revamping of the lineup will do. On "What We See When We Shut Our Eyes" WITH PASSION sounds significantly more confident with a better batch of songs and all the musical prowess heard on "In the Midst of Bloodied Soil".
But first the guitars of John Abernathy and Jeff Morgan. Simply incredible, there is no other way to say it. The fluidness of playing, the ferocious attack, and a sweeping style that somehow holds together in a structural sense no matter what the speed is absolutely astounding. The boys rip and shred like there is no tomorrow and yet there is a certain beauty created in the manner that the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. And you don't need to be a guitarist to appreciate the work of these two masters. It is the kind of thing that THE HUMAN ABSTRACT and BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME do so well.
But if we stopped right there, "What We See…" would still be little more than a technical marvel. There is sure as hell nothing in the way of sweet crooning or melodic vocal lines, but there are actual songs in the midst of the axe-wielding histrionics. For qualification purposes, let's just say that "actual songs" does not equate to radio-friendly accessibility by any stretch, merely that the tracks do not amount to an exercise in guitar clinic excess. The occasional light segment and a rhythm section that can stop on a dime, then flow seamlessly back into the song, works to elevate the album dynamics considerably. The only downside comes by way of new guy Fidel Campos' typically scathing metalcore vocals. His delivery is not a complete failure, but does detract a bit from the compositions and at times is rather irritating. Finally, Brian Elliott's (Mana Recording Studios) production sounds great.
I would not call "What We See When We Shut Our Eyes" a tech-metal juggernaut, but it is still a pretty damn exciting 52 minutes of music. And it is definitely a step up from "In the Midst of Bloodied Soil".