Achilles - The Dark Horse (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


The Dark Horse (2005)


With The Dark Horse, Rochester's Achilles has taken the necessary steps to grow a bit beyond the blatant unoriginality and otherwise horribly disjointed moments that plagued their self-titled 2004 EP. It's a debut full-length that manages to capture the almost arty, epic feel only a small handful of metalcore acts manage to attain, and it's stated in under a half-hour.

The Dark Horse shows that Achilles has let up a bit on the Every Time I Die aping, now opting for slightly more heavier and still somehow relatively angular metalcore depictions; if anything, the band now draws from the Last Night In Town era, with Rory Vangrol definitely giving off an early Keith Buckley inflection at times. "Ivory" also carries deathly similar themes to "The Logic Of Crocodiles" in its condemnation of corporate tactics, though perhaps not as eloquently stated. The part early in the song where the guitar fades out to leave Vangrol screaming panic-like over bass and drums makes for an early record standout moment, though.

Instead of treading the beaten path of tough guy territory, the album usually finds Achilles preferring more mathy terrains, especially for their genre. The experience of producer and Breather Resist guitarist Evan Patterson -- who also does guitar work at some point on the disc -- shines through here; he seems to bring out similarly heavy traits in Achilles, with accurate press release comparisons to Botch as well. "Over Our Heads" has a dizzying bass line in its bridge commanding a strange time signature, and its original tone carries over into the intro of the followup title track. The band's sound manages to flawlessly interchange between wall-of-sound destruction and a guitar tone that the band could one day trademark. The guitars in "In Lights" excellently pitch echoing soundscapes mid-track, and the breakdown of "Wake Me When It Thunders" conveys an eerie feel with its epic finish.

The Dark Horse only features 27 minutes of controlled chaos, but it showcases an ambitious attempt at breathing life into a genre usually disreputable thanks to some. It's void of pointlessly melodic singing and flows perfectly with spot-on cohesiveness, and despite its length, is more than enough of a testament to the band's talents and knack for artfully-driven hardcore/metal that matches up to similarly-minded acts.

Every Hour Wounds, The Last One Kills