Love them or hate them, Born Of Osiris are here to stay, and Angel or Alien is proof of this. Old and new fans alike, if you want to treat yourself with a collection of hard-hitting songs that only the band knows how to pull off, then this is the album for you.
Enough with the endless barraging from shallow ivory towers and let’s tell it like it is: Born Of Osiris have established a solid name for themselves. With more than a decade of being active since the release of their debut EP, The New Reign, back in 2007, there’s no denying the influence this band has instilled into the current generation of bands within the metalcore, djent, and deathcore circles. I can for sure attest to this, as I have basically grown along with the band throughout the years and witnessed the surgency of bands incorporating BOO’s technical brand of metalcore into their songwriting. This goes without getting into details about them being the leading figures of the ‘Sumeriancore’ era back in the day. Regardless of the subgenres and sub-subgenres you’re willing to die on a hill for, you have to respect the hustle Born Of Osiris have brought to the game to maintain their relevancy.
Two years after their last release, The Simulation, the Illinoisan act grace us with a new record titled Angel or Alien. Now, it is worth mentioning that I haven’t followed the band too closely since their fantastic second full-length, The Discovery, save listening to a couple of songs here and there. Having this in mind, I was quite excited to get back into their music and I had high expectations after listening to all the singles prior to the album’s release. Were those expectations met? Well… not exactly. I did find the entire listen satisfying, however, and there’s such an overall giddy feeling of revisiting a band I had such high regards for in my teenage years.
Right out of the bat, Angel or Alien finds Born Of Osiris at their most comfortable, excelling at showering you with the technical metalcore sound they have carefully refined throughout the years. The production pops out with thrilling energy, creating a riveting synergy between the precise guitar chugging and the ominous and otherworldly synths, filtered through their trademark mid-tempo song flow. “White Nile” and “Truth or Denial” are songs that are blatantly tailored to us old-time fans thanks to the back-to-back grooves and the tasteful guitar solos I’ve personally come to love from the aforementioned The Discovery.
Born Of Osiris do not shy away from distancing themselves from what they are known for, either. Songs like “In for the Kill” and “You Are the Narrative” show the band at their most proggy, channeling traces of Periphery and Between the Buried and Me without coming off as tacky or obvious. The proginess expands further as they recruit multi-instrumentalist Adrián Terrazas-González (of The Mars Volta and T.R.A.M. fame) for the album’s closer (and a personal highlight) “Shadowmourne”, a candid display of atmospheric metalcore interweaved with Terrazas-González’s masterful use of the saxophone. At first listen, the song might feel like an odd curveball thrown at you, but in reality it simmers very nicely within the context of the album and leaves you with a pleasing aftertaste. I only hope this song is but a teaser for what’s in store for the band in the future.
As the band dabbles with experimentation on Angel or Alien, they also cruise by the lanes of writing infectious hooks and catchy choruses. Admittedly, this particular move felt to me like they decided to throw these types of ideas on a musical wall and see which ones stick and which ones don’t. This is not to say that they don’t know how to make a song palatable to a wider audience – far from it actually. “Poster Child” and the title track are excellent examples of this knack for accessible songwriting. Unfortunately, some of the tracks on this album eventually fell off the wall into the farther recesses of my always-distracted mind, never to see the light of day.
I believe this shortcoming comes down to the vocals. Granted, the growls and high-pitched screams from both vocalists are as strong as ever, having aged like fine, esoteric wine. That being said, the scream-singing employed in the choruses and refrains are decently executed at best, entirely forgettable at worst. I guess I’ve become numb to these stylistic choices in vocal delivery thanks to bands like Architects and LVNDMARKS. It is what it is.
Angel or Alien is certainly a treat for fans old and new, albeit with its limitations. One thing is certain though, and that is that Born Of Osiris have reached towards a sonic identity that is theirs and only theirs. Play any song off this album and it won’t take long to know that what you’re listening to is a BOO song, while also still sounding relatively fresh. For that sole reason I commend them; it’s not too uncommon to come across bands that are admittedly consistent, but that have also lost their spark along the way (looking at you, Sabaton. I still vibe with y’all, though.). I don’t think Born Of Osiris have lost that spark yet, not really. For all the lost opportunities to further overcome their musical threshold, they make it up by unleashing an album that is reliable and easily enjoyable. And honestly, who could argue with that?