Becoming Saints wear the label of metalcore on their sleeves, but their debut album Oh, the Suffering boasts moments of melodic hardcore, metalcore, and post-hardcore. These elements all weave together to create a diverse record that unapologetically grabs the listener by the throat and hurls them into the most pit. Moments of melodic intensity appear between the brutal breakdowns, and in the tradition of the spirit-filled hardcore bands of the late 90s and early 00s, Becoming Saints is a band that is as much about the message as they are about the music.
With an EP under their belts already, Becoming Saints doesn't waste any time, but gets right down to business with the first song on Oh, the Suffering. The strength of Oh, the Suffering is felt in the opening two songs. "Built for War" hits heavily and lingers, and its melting pot of stylistic choices are reminiscent of Onward to Olympus' This World is Not My Home. The ending of "Built for War" is stunning. An anthemic clincher segues into a creative breakdown that perfectly juxtaposes against a slamming bass riff. In fact, if more bands created breakdowns in this manner, the current hardcore scene wouldn't be so dull.
It's unusual that I'm able to compare a song to Life in Your Way, particularly because that band has constructed a unique and fresh version of melodic hardcore, but the dueling sung and growled vocals on "Push and Pull" definitely give off that vibe. Unfortunately, the band begins to slip toward mediocrity with the song "Lost." While the chorus is solid, the track is brought down by generic breakdowns. Even crushing vocals from Living Sacrifice legend Bruce Fitzhugh barely pull this one out of the mire. I'm sure that the breakdowns are more invigorating live, but in the end they are the Achilles' heel of Oh, the Suffering.
"Oath" is an adrenaline-soaked rendition of hardcore with snippets of melody that offset the more brutal portions of the song. "Mother Teresa" features spoken lines from the miracle-working lady herself and serve as an interlude on Oh, the Suffering. Unfortunately, it's difficult to understand what she's saying.
"Vox Mortem" is a warrior's anthem. One conjures up an immense Viking warrior, his great red mane flowing in the wind, his bulky frame overshadowing lesser men. With one stride he clutches two of his enemies together; with one swinging motion he crushes their skulls in his callous hands. Then it's on to "Unbroken" and some stellar riffing by guitarist Kory Olson. The atmosphere in the background of this song creates an almost epic feel, and parts of it draw influences from Soul Embraced.
"This Heart Yours" is plagued by too many breakdowns; even so, it boasts one of the best choruses on the album. Ready for another sonic break? "De Paso" is an instrumental that shelters the listener from the ravaging gusts of the world. The spoken passages on "My Fall Your Gain" create a somber mood. These lines transition into a soaring chorus that is filled with passion and panache. You can really feel the intensity of a focused group of musicians on this song.
"One Shot" is exactly that -- a bullet straight to the chest, one that knocks you out every time. The cyclical nature of the chorus and the intricate background melodies are marks of advanced musicianship. The guest vocals by Emily Wold also serve to make this song one of the strongest on the album as the band pushes the envelope of post-hardcore. The denouement of Oh, the Suffering is an intriguing choice, but the almost stoner vibes that the song gives off would probably be best served as a melodic interlude elsewhere on the album.
At the end of the day, Becoming Saints is doing a lot of things right. Fans of bands like For Today, Life in Your Way, and Your Memorial will find portions of Oh, the Suffering to fall in love with. Oh, the Suffering is a promising debut album, and if the band continues to improve in its musicianship and vision, they may become one of the top contenders in the metalcore scene.