Bottom of the Barrel: Design the Skyline – Nevaeh (2011)
Genre: Deathcore / metalcore / “progressive metal”
Release date: 16th August, 2011
Record label: Victory
For fans of: Taking the “progressive” and “metal” out of “progressive metal”
In today’s heavy music world, the phrase “progressive” is thrown around far too often. It seems that any metal band that takes the time to incorporate a couple of jazz chords or different time signatures into their style is suddenly “eye-opening” and “experimental”, with several acts earning a progressive label without actually doing anything to progress the art or the appeal of heavy metal. Design the Skyline and their debut (and, to date, only) studio album, Nevaeh (2011), is the apex of this sentiment.
Despite their music being given the “experimental” designation, this Texan seven-piece does little to help the most intense end of the musical spectrum evolve and progress. If anything, Nevaeh may mark a devolution.
Sure, it has down-tuned guitars, a few polyrhythmic patches and three vocalists performing on it, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty, Nevaeh is abhorred drivel of the most obtuse kind.
Its cardinal sins are almost too numerous to describe, so let’s just talk about the really ear-splitting ones. Firstly, the singing here is the among the worst to ever be committed to tape. Or at least, tape that a record label has seen fit to unleash to the general public. How is it even mathematically possible for a band to have three singers and not one of them do a good job?
The growls of Eric Azure and Dani Doom simultaneously sound like the poorly mixed recordings of Cookie Monster burping and the Wicked Witch of the West trying to go hardcore. The auto-tuned cleans of bassist/singer Ethan White would sound more in their element in a melodic pop radio hit than in a deathcore album, and the content of Design the Skyline’s lyrics are equally cringe-inducing. “I’m your god, I’m your end, fuck your life / Snake bite to the wrist, collecting venom for my lusting clench,” Azure and Doom bellow out during Nevaeh’s third track, “Destroyer”. Both generic and impossible to decipher, this symbolises the most shallow and uninspired of heavy metal songwriting.
Furthermore, the production is unforgivably flat. From beginning to end, Nevaeh is an absolute chore to endure, with its heaviest moments coming across as a cacophony of instruments that are refusing to work in tandem, instead all acting in direct contradiction and never once achieving anything close to the enticing flow of such well-helmed classics as Back in Black (1980). Even if it were a demo, Nevaeh’s sound quality would be off-putting.
To make a long story short, all but one aspect of this record is insultingly bad. Its only small grace comes in a handful of the riffs from guitarists Julian Reckless and Matt Ryan. Despite mostly being benign deathcore instrumentally, Nevaeh does actually show tiny slithers of promise in moments like the opening guitar-work of “Witch of the Woods” and “Break Free from Your Life”. But other than these fleeting passages, there is literally nothing of value here.
In truth, Nevaeh reeks of desperation. With its pseudo-progressive nature and deathcore roots, it is trying too hard to slot itself into the popular metal styles of the early 2010s, as a result making it sound dated even just six years down the line. Combine into this the fact that Design the Skyline’s debut has the audio quality of a homemade EP recorded by a band in a garage and the end result is undiluted hideousness.
See where Nevaeh lands in the “Bottom of the Barrel” rankings here.