On paper, at their root, Chicago's Born Of Osiris seem to be just another generic, Johnny-come-lately to the now exploding-in-popularity "New wave of American death metal" movement. After all, they are comprised of five band members, one for each instrument (guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, vocals), and do bog down in pretty standard 4/4 timing much of the time. Furthermore, their music is riddled with fairly generic-sounding vocals and metalcore-influenced breakdowns.
But B.O.O. differentiate from the vast majority of deathcore groups on today's market in that they pay more attention to the keyboards. Far more than mere window dressing, the group's synth work is, simply put, excelloent, and helps to distance them from the hordes of other tuneless death metal/metalcore bands. In fact, one could even argue the point that Born Of Osiris have as much in common with symphonic black metal than they do with either of the above-named two genres. Couple this increased sense of melodicism and keyboard accents on their sophomoric effort, 2009's "A Higher Place," with the fact that the album also boasts good drumming and exceptionally technical guitar work, and the end result is a pretty darn original sound. (And one that, on the whole, sounds something like a Dimmu Borgir-meets-Nocturnus-meets-Meshuggah-meets-Unearth-meets-Pantera-meets-Fear Factory hybrid.)
The terrifically ominous and melodic opener that is "Rebirth" (which is laden with lots of keys and techno-industrial-like knick-knacks) sets the stage perfectly for "Elimination," which is almost startling by contrast, at least in terms of brutality and intensity. This pounding and blistering follow-up is centered around fiery thrash riffing, machine gun-fast drumming, thunderous, driving rhythms, and vocal patterns that alternate between freakish high screams and visceral low growls (a la The Black Dahlia Murder). And melody might be only an afterthought, here, but it is prominent enough to provide the mix with some nice texture and nuance in what would otherwise be an all-out trainwreck of brutality. And "The Accountable" continues down this same path, with impeccable double bass and blast beat collages underpinning cast-iron, technical guitar rampages, thus concocting a dizzying give-and-take between the two instruments.
"Now Arise" is another highlight, as it is a cut that evokes vintage Fear Factory, what with its fiery, chugging guitars interlocked in a duel with thunderous double bass kicks. But "Now Arise" differentiates from the works put out by Burton C. Bell and the gang in that it takes a stab at an interlude piece of pure symphonic black metal -- and not a half bad stab at it, too! And operating in similarly-structured fashion, "Starved" opens with some crunching, cascading, Fear Factory-meets-Gojira-esque riffing anchored by intense thrash beat drumming, before allowing some melody to come to the forefront of the mix at around the two-minute mark. This melody is very strong and infectious, and comes in the form of a cool and chilling, black metal-derived keyboard solo. The song climaxes, however, by blending the two styles -- melody and brutality -- into one simultaneous, potent mix, where some tastefully melodic guitar leads are laid elegantly alongside looming keyboard lines, and over taut grindcore blasts.
"Exist" is a technical guitar workout much in the same vein as Psyopus, Necrophagist, and Origin, as it boasts fluid sweeps, technical licks, pinch harmonics, and epic-sounding melodic lead work. And those are, more-or-less, the album's standout tracks, although one must not forget to also mention the inclusion of the bludgeoning and ultra-chunky "Put To Rest," and "Faces Of Death," which marries some more technical riffing with ripping harmonic leads/solos. And, again, some symphonic black metal elements find their way onto the scene, here, too, including utilizing a full choir -- or if not, then something that sounds very similar to it.
Although it cannot be said to be the most essential or life-altering purchase, you would be hard-pressed to find a deathcore record that is more unique than "A Higher Place" in all of 2009. It is the sound of an inventive and original young outfit that has all of the makings it needs in order to be a very successful new band, and one that soars above most of the plain vanilla chug and breakdown-worshipping brigade.