Being rather out-of-touch with Red Cord Records’ catalog of artists, I was rather surprised to see Phinehas releasing a full-length with them, considering the decent amount of hype following the band's last release, thegodmachine, not to mention the decent sense of humor displayed in previous music videos. With the band's newest release, The Last Word is Yours to Speak, I was curious to see which direction this metalcore outfit would be heading.
Contrary to the title of the album, I have a full three words to speak about this album: Bands, take notes. The mix is perfect for these tracks, with the bass and guitars equally audible, not to mention the snare doing a decent job cutting through. The vocals are right in the front as well, with Sean McCulloch’s voice right in the front of everything you hear at all times.
Before I go further, there is one aspect of this record that needs highlighting. The guitar work is not only technical, but almost maddeningly catchy. For example, the beginning riff of “Blood on My Knuckles” is more reminiscent of a nu-metal band – almost sounding like something from radio rock – yet the bass and drums in the back make the riff sound heavy and maintain its catchy nature. This happens on most of “Salting the Mine” as well, with another radio rock-like riff latent with metalcore elements behind it, the sound coming together in spectacular fashion.
That being said, the first single, “Fleshkiller,” as well as being the first non-intro track on the record, is the most intriguing because it is really the least progressive of the tracks. At the same time, it shows a level of technicality and song structure that most metalcore bands don’t come close to matching. “Fleshkiller” has an August Burns Red meets Oh, Sleeper vibe to it, with cleans in the chorus shining through the instruments in an anthem that had me bouncing the whole time. Even the breakdown to the song has a catchy lead riff over it, making it interesting as well as heavy. This aspect of the song, as well as the entire record, is something many bands tend to ignore. Phinehas always has a riff at their disposal on this record, with few enough simple chugging parts that you could count them on one hand.
If there is a single gripe that I have with this record, it comes from the clean vocals. Through my listens, it became apparent that each chorus shared similar notes because of the limited clean vocal range. Sean McCulloch has a tendency to go to the same few notes to hold at the end of a line of lyrics, and it really weighs the chorus down at times, most notably on “The Deepest of Graves” and “Manipulator’s Wire”. Though this does happen, at the same time, it also gives a level of connection between each of the tracks, making those songs feel more like part of the album than just separate songs. In this regard, that aspect of the vocals can be overlooked.
Bands, take notes. Learn from Phinehas and what they have done with “The Last Word is Yours to Speak” because the band has just created a masterpiece of metalcore that should be used as an influence for years to come. Phinehas has successfully brought riffs back into a genre that has tried its hardest to abandon them, and done so in spectacular fashion. If you’re a fan of August Burns Red, Oh, Sleeper, or even just heavy metal in general, give this record a spin or two, and welcome Phinehas into the forefront of metalcore.