Just when I thought I'd had enough of the vast majority of metalcore bands, one comes along and gives me a renewed sense of hope for the genre. Arizona's LIFE IN PICTURES has crafted a hard hitting and well-written album in "By the Sign of the Spyglass". Aside from the quintessential metalcore screamy (and one-dimensional) vocals of H. Clarence Hampton, I'm really not all that comfortable giving LIFE IN PICTURES a simplistic metalcore tag. Don't get me wrong, most metalcore fans will dig this album, but don't cast this lot in with every other Trustkill/Victory/Ferret clone band. Rockin' guitar work and an exceptional sense of song craft sets the quintet apart from the pack.
"By the Sign of the Spyglass" is the debut release for Clockwork Recordings (an imprint of Pluto Records), a label owned by AS I LAY DYING lead singer Tim Lambesis. It's also the band's first full-length release.
What I like most about this album is that there is no let up in the "rawk" factor, yet the songwriting has plenty of melody. You just won't hear emo crooning. You also won't hear excessive use of breakdowns. There's no reason for them, as LIFE IN PICTURES knocks you upside the head without 'em. Best of all, the album is about great riffs and killer guitar playing. Take "Eric Hilborn", for example. The tune just rips and when a certain very brief solo hits, it's wild and wooly! Then in the very same song, you get these wonderful sections of melodic guitar. The crisp and semi-abrasive tone never lets you forget that these are ELECTRIC guitars. I love the main harmony line on "Wrecking Ball and Chain"; so nicely picked, so well played. Like many of the tunes, the pacing is often like a frantic gallop, an attribute no more apparent than on "Needle in a Haystack" (featuring guest vocals from FSN of WHERE EAGLES DARE). When "The Last of the Blind Man" runs its course, something happens that usually drives me nuts — several minutes of pure silence ticks by, as I wait for what is sure to be a goofy hidden track. I'm pleasantly surprised, as said hidden track is a cover of THE MISFITS' "Devillock", and it's a cool version at that.
Even with Hampton's vocals sometimes getting monotonous and detracting somewhat from the dynamic arrangements, this is a strong effort from the Arizona boys. If LIFE IN PICTURES is any indication of Tim Lambesis' knack for finding talent, we'll be hearing a lot more about Clockwork Recordings.