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The concept behind second Frameshift album "An Absence of Empathy" is based around violence... the violence of human nature is manifested in different ways, and on this album those different forms of violence are handled in pairs of songs. The reason why each form of violence is explored within two songs is because there are always two different aspects to violence - for example, there's the victim's standpoint as well as the felon's point of view. The concept is successful, but I won't shed too much light on it in order not to spoil your first listen.
Musically the album is pretty much what one can expect from Henning Pauly - varying song structures, atmospheric overall soundscape, industrial effects blended with progressive metal that coaxes with modern metal and on top of all there are diverse vocals. Pauly himself describes the music as "a heavy approach to film scoring". To give an example of the music on this album, few of the guitar licks remind me of Dream Theater, but occasionally traces of nu-metal become obvious. In addition, keyboards play a big role building the atmosphere of the songs, and the vocals are a main focus on "An Absence of Empathy".
In case you've listened to the previous Frameshift album "Unweawing the Rainbow" with James LaBrie on vocals, you probably know how much LaBrie experimented with his voice on that album. Well, instead of LaBrie, "An Absence of Empathy" features the renowned heavy metal and Broadway singer Sebastian Bach (Skidrow) on vocals. You might have some doubts about how the album will sound with Bach instead of LaBrie (I, for one, had some doubts). Nonetheless, after hearing the album (and listening to it on a regular basis for quite a while) I can assure you Bach is definitely the perfect choice for this album. His voice complements the songs well, and he has even discovered new sides of his voice while recording this album. The vocal performances are just great, and they even raise the quality of material to the next level. This is definitely a must-have album for the fans of Sebastian Bach.
Henning Pauly himself handled the production of this album, but for mixing he got a helping hand from Carey Nordstrand. The sounds are clean, yet atmospheric and assertive. The only complaints I have concern the background distortion that occurs few times (fortunately very seldom). Overall, "An Absence of Empathy" is very well produced album.
As with the previous Frameshift album, the material on "An Absence of Empathy" is very diverse. Therefore the long-time appeal of this album is really good. Also the overall quality of material is very good, but few songs are more fortuitous than others (for example, "Blade" is one of my favourites). The amount of great tracks on this album along with the diversity alone, makes this album a recommended buy. If I was to name all the songs that have memorable sections, I'd have to name each song. In case you're not put off by experimental sections, be sure to check out "An Absence of Empathy" - you won't regret it.
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- MAGE (May 18th, 2005)
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