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Review: Gnostic - Engineering the Rule
Engineering the Rule

Label: Season of Mist
Year released: 2009
Duration: 38:23
Tracks: 10
Genre: Death/Thrash

Rating: 3.25/5

Review online: September 2, 2009
Reviewed by: Nahsil
Readers Rating
Engineering the Rule

Rated 3.3/5 (66%) (10 Votes)

Expectations are high when three of your band members are veterans of the venerable Atheist, including notable drummer Steve Flynn and more recent Atheist guitarists Chris Baker and Sonny Carson. The good news is that this album absolutely delivers the metal, with furious and spastically technical guitar work, ridiculous bass playing, and the unrelenting precision/creativity of Flynn that harkens back to 1991's Unquestionable Presence – hell, even the throat-ripping yells of Ian Freeman are, if nothing else, full of energy and impossible to call generic (at least in metal; there's a very hardcore quality to his voice).

On the dark side of the coin, things may be a little too erratic for fans of Atheist and other bands of that late ‘80s, early ‘90s scene. The songwriting tends to forego cohesion for a more jerky, off-kilter style that is quite honestly a burden to endure for extended periods. There are some very compelling riffs, leads and solo guitar passages, but the transitions between them are not always as smooth and logically conceived as age-defying works like Piece of Time. Because the band is all over the place, some of the material isn't as effective as it could have been, had they taken a more traditional approach to their craft than is typical of technical metal in recent years. Spreading themselves too thin and sacrificing overall memorability is the gist of it. Still, the Atheist magic is more intact than I would have predicted considering that of Gnostic's lineup, only Flynn was around for Atheist's glory days just under two decades ago. The jazz influence, in particular, is strongly felt throughout the album, especially with regard to the substantial contribution of bassist Stephen Morley, who does a great job providing the low end and only rarely mirrors the guitar tracks.

Also questionable, as mentioned earlier, are the vocals of Ian Freeman. I thought with some listening they might grow on me, but for the most part this hasn't been the case. I still find myself unable to enjoy the rest of the band as much because of his screechy brand of shouting that doesn't wholly meld with the style of music being played. No offense to Freeman but I'm glad Kelly Shaefer is onboard for the upcoming Atheist release.

The best songs in my opinion are the ones from Gnostic's 2005 demo Splinters of Change, which I enjoyed immensely and which further escalated my expectations of this full-length. Did they have to speed some of the songs up, though?! I liked "Wall of Lies" the way it was; the tempo adjustment rids the song of some of its charm. Oh well. Grievances aside, Engineering the Rule certainly has its redeeming factors. Die-hard Atheist and/or tech metal fans would do well to give this a spin.

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