Back When - In the Presence (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Back When

In the Presence (2006)


Init Records is one of the main labels quietly putting out solid releases without any real attention or accolades. It's a shame, but I feel that a label with as many quality releases as Init has had will not be flying so low under the radar for long. One band that could certainly speed that process along is Back When, an incredibly talented four-piece that calls to mind such genre heavyweights as Engineer and Buried Inside.

Fortunately, Back When is not a retread or carbon copy of either of those, and the collection titled In the Presence should go a long way to solidify their niche in the world of heavy music. This record amasses tracks from several 7"s, demos and remixes to put forth half an hour's worth of churning and explosive music that's as heavy as it is dynamic.

Like the two previously mentioned bands, Back When rely heavily on crescendo. It's all about the buildup and the expectation. The brooding destruction, that's pensive at first, slowly coming out of the shell and increasing in volume, until finally released in a torrent of crunching riffs and guttural screams that shake the very foundation of everything that helped build it up to that point. Every aspect of every song works toward the inevitable climax that pays off the six or seven minutes spent listening in the first place. And though it's by no means a revolutionary formula, I'd be a liar if I tried to deny the impact or the gravity that it holds.

The best testament to this approach of songwriting is to point out when it works, and on "We Giveth and We Taketh," it works flawlessly. As these songs often do, it begins delicately enough, with the ominous plucking of some extremely low-tuned strings, until out of nowhere there's an eruption.

That eruption is the deep and devastating vocals that appear all over this record, reeking nothing short of havoc with the power they possess. On their own, formidable enough, but when accompanying the deep pound of the bass drum and deeper grooves of the bass guitar, it's an unstoppable and unrelenting combination. Offset only slightly by the hint of melody in those chords, the band trudges through all seven minutes of the track, picking up steam along the way, slowing only briefly to add to the ominous feel of impending devestation set in the first 30 seconds of the track. It's far from the only instance of this kind of songwriting, but it's the best example, and it's what works.

The only thing remotely capable of slowing these guys down is their own penchant for creating mystique, for creating a buildup that makes the payoff all the more powerful. They have it down to a finely tuned craft.