Review : RECKONER – "Reckoner"

Release: 2010Dec
Label: Self-released
Rating: 4/5

On a recent trip out to the rainy west coast city of Vancouver, my friend Dave Carr bequeathed me an album that had been growing in the ether since we first met. Guitarist for a progressive metal/hardcore outfit now known as Reckoner, Dave has been working hard in Vancity for many years. Vocalists and instrumentalists have come and gone, craigslist ads were responded to, posters were stapled around the city, and so on.

Finally, with a vocalist and a satisfactory volume of material in place, Reckoner made it’s way into Vancouver’s Armoury Studios to record their first full length. Producer Shaun Thingvold, whose previous projects have paired him with heavyweight metal forces like Devin Townsend/SYL, Lamb of God, and Fear Factory, took the reins and helped Reckoner self-release a mostly vicious first album. 

Reckoner thrashes, it froths, and it gallivants across your speakers with purpose.  Perhaps a bit prog metal standard at times, but for a first album it sets a strong precedent. In this respect, their choice of producer or vice versa makes a lot of sense. Like LoG and SYL, this album is packed with breakdowns, time changes, clean riffing, and a love for triumphantly galloping drums. The album is coherent without being too sterile, while the mix focuses the listener pointedly within Thingvold’s production design.

At first read, you get the sense that, lyrically, this album is comprised of unrelated vignettes without much common thread aside from the vocal style.  Its track list reads like a flier for a comic-gore short film fest: “A Simple Bear Attack,” “Pirates,” “Prombies,” “Fake Moustache,” and “Tremors,” take the lead as the most comic-bookish of the bunch.

According to Carr, writing duties were a pseudo-group effort.  Nick England (guitar) penned the majority of the lyrics, though Carr and drummer Syd Beagle have a writing credit on a few tracks each.  As a latecomer, vocalist Ben Schabner plugged his style into the established layouts with impressive results, but did not contribute lyrically.

In its subject matter the album is realistically conscientious, but does not let the message trip up the album’s ability to be digested on an aesthetically objective level.   The overall gist reads something like this: “Humans are Assholes. Nature will Win. Cut it out.”  The cautionary lyrics show dismay for the state of the modern world and the way we treat ourselves and our planet. Fantasy metal, it is not. Not an Orc or dragon to be found; bears, pirates, and adolescent zombies sure, but no dragons.  Schabner’s vocal performance is consistent and powerful enough to match the energy of the instrumentation as the album crashes around like a pissed off, testosterone saturated tomcat. 

Reckoner is a solid first effort for the band, and despite its sometimes-familiar feel, was certainly forged in the traditions of the Heavy and the Metal.  It makes you want to drive fast, hit stuff, and growl at the world. It may not be the deepest listening exercise in the Metalverse, but it is a good start and a welcome addition to Canadian metal. On the East coast it can be mail ordered here, or you can download from iTunes.

FCC: 6
Give 1, 2, 4, 7, and 10  a go.

01. A Simple Bear Attack
02. Pirates
03. Trash Compactor
04. Prombies
05 . Waves
06. Grey Spot
07. Rattle Snake
08. Fake Moustache
10. Ash Blacks Out the Sun
11. Fallout

~Oopey Mason


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