'Core' genres are a tough game nowadays, be it metalcore, deathcore, or mathcore; a popular thing to hate on, due to the usual over-production and generally shallow 'easy' lyrical content. Even more-so, the target audience is more then usual teenagers, and those of us who've left that phase of our lives, sometimes not all that gracefully, harbor bitterness towards music which harks back to those turbulent times. I'm not saying there aren't things to love, some of my own favorite bands are metalcore (I.e. BLEEDING THROUGH and THE AGONIST), but yeah – core is a tough genre.
Bands like LIKE ANIMALS though, they seem to be pressing through nonetheless. This trio seems to be proud of where they are, and they aim for a more pure sense of the mathcore genre – especially with FERAL (which is the fourth in an 'animal' themed EP series.) Firstly, this EP does not bask in production values and absolute clarity in content. Everything sounds very true, like what you'd hear if you went to a live show rather then something laden in computerized effects and heavy keyboard work. Perhaps that is a product of the 'feral' theme, but I find that it works and experiencing 'raw' mathcore is extremely interesting, albeit a bit odd.
You can pretty much expect the song-writing aspect of a band like LIKE ANIMALS, of whom have apparently played over 400 shows, to be pretty tight. These guys know how to play and they do so almost flawlessly. I found myself extremely impressed with the guitar and bass work, and since there isn't a whole lot of over-production, the bands skill is far more evident – though I'm pretty sure there is some layering, considering there are only three people at work here. As far as the drums, they seem rather standard fare – despite a healthy bit of boasting regarding their apparent 'spastic' nature. Honestly, they do what they need to do and not much else. There really isn't anything wrong with that, just nothing special. I really feel that, for a band with so much experience, not a whole lot of creative things are at work here. Sure, lyrical content and thematic focus is the main show here, but can you blame me for expecting a little bit more?
This EP does have a severe weakness though, which happens to be the singing vocals. At times they click, while at others the singer sounds as if he is droning on without much aim. This is also where the under-production rears its uglier side, at times the vocals actually feel as if the vocals are atop of the music, poorly blending into the tracks. I don't think LIKE ANIMALS intended this, but it really draws attention away from FERAL's better aspects. Things aren't always bad though, some songs actually have the feel of early THE AGONIST or DILLENGER ESCAPE PLAN albums, but those that don't – such as 'Lions Share' - just fall extremely flat and drag the entire songs down. Its a shame, really, since a lot of effort has been put into the lyrical themes of FERAL, but when the actual singing doesn't work – it makes a song pretty ineffectual. On the flip side, the harsher vocals are always excellent and always fit where they should.
I'll be honest, FERAL really isn't for everyone and it doesn't really do everything right. It's part of a series of EP's with extremely clever ideas behind them and has the potential to be the fantastic but this release just doesn't reach far enough to hit the intended mark. I love it's straight-forward sound, its DIY nature, and I can get behind all that, but I don't find FERAL all that special.