I was excited about Phoenix Mourning's debut after hearing "Glasskiss" on Metal Blade's podcast. Metalcore has reached the saturation point where it all starts to sound the same, but "Glasskiss" did a better job than a lot of the newest generation of metalcore bands of mixing up melodic and growled vocals, had plenty of harmonized vocals, an acoustic breakdown with strings, and atmospheric strings in the background of most of the song. "Atmospheric metalcore," I'd dubbed it, since after all metal can apparently never have too many genres, and I had high expectations for the band to drive the next evolution of metalcore.
Sadly, the rest of CD didn't live up to expectations set by that tune. They come storming out of the gates on "Across Twenty-Six Winters," with rather generic metalcore riffing and a low string chugga breakdown for the bridge. While it doesn't have the vocal harmonies, there's still the interplay of growled against clean vocals with the clean style actually being somewhat reminiscent of Fear Factory's Burton C. Bell on songs like "Invisible Wounds," and the drums prior to the breakdown are given some extra character courtesy a cutoff filter. Not a terrible song, although not terribly memorable.
The next song, "Contrast," makes it clear where the actual clean vocal influence is coming from, with a melodic guitar line that just about any emo band would've killed to write. More riffing with melodic lines on top, clean and growled vocals, breakdown... again, not bad as far as metalcore or emocore are concerned, but nothing that memorable. And realistically, that's the story of the whole disc, songs all of pretty much the same form and style, with the exception of "Glasskiss" or the instrumental closer " 12.5."
If I had heard any song other than "Glasskiss" first, I probably would've just shrugged about this band and moved on to something else. There isn't anything terrible about it--the guitars and drums in particular sound good, the vocal style interplay works well--it's just that Phoenix Mourning amount to just another band in a crowded genre. Fans of From Autumn To Ashes will probably dig this. I have hopes for them that they can figure out whatever they did right on "Glasskiss" and move in that direction on their next release; for now, this is a relatively middle-of-the-road disc that you can take or leave.