With the history of Rowe Productions, the quality of releases has been
sorta hit-and-miss. Some releases, like Ethereal Scourge's, Judgment & Restoration were very well received
with metal fans. Then there was the album by Cry Mercy that made me cringe many a time upon hearing it.
While Fearscape won't quite rank up there with Ethereal Scourge in my opinion, this is a very
strong effort by a new Rowe Productions band. With influences ranging from Opeth, to Metallica, to maybe even a
little touch of metalcore, Fearscape romps through a somewhat long album of hard-hitting metal tunes.
This band is actually one of the closest bands I've heard in style when compared to Opeth.
Truthfully, this band is nowhere near the caliber of Opeth, but they do strike some very amazing similarities. Fearscape
makes a habit of switching back and forth between crushing metal with death/black vocals and calming and soothing
atmospheres with cleanly sung vocals...ala Opeth. However, the big difference here is the huge superiority of Mikael
Akerfeldt's clean vocals. Fearscape's vocalist, Matt Brown, has an excellent extreme metal voice, but I'm seriously
thinking he may want to consider ditching the clean vocals. At times he sounds okay, but nothing that will really impress
anyone. His shining moment with the clean vocals would probably be his James Hetfield-influenced vocals in the title
track. Overall though, they would do better to just keep the calmer parts as instrumental...either that or get a better
clean vocalist. However, once the softer side of Fearscape has past, the brutal side of the band will knock you
on your backside. The band packs a powerful punch with an incredible wall of sound. The bands downtuned, death/thrash/groove
metal combination will have even the most stubborn of listeners banging their heads.
As I sit here and continue to listen to this album while I write this review, I can't help but
dwell on the Opeth comparisons. It seems like the band draws from their Opeth influences more and more as the album
progresses. "Die to Me" sounds very similar at times to My Arms, Your Hearse-era Opeth. And "Die is Cast"
also incorporates some very Opeth-ish sounding riffs along with somewhat strong Zao-like opening to the song. Fearscape
even goes for the long song style that Opeth loves to do. With song times of 9, 12, 8, 6, 7, 7, 6, and 6 minutes,
Fearscape gets in no hurry to end a song. However, the band might keep listeners attention more if they'd shorten
song of these tunes. Don't get me wrong, I like long songs. However, they need to be able to keep your attention.
The heavier side of Fearscape definitely does that, but the calmer side of the band only accomplishes that about 50% of the
time. One huge exception is the album-closing, acoustical instrumental "Last of the Celts". It's shows the
softer side of the band at it's very best for the full 6 minutes and 49 seconds. Now, I wouldn't go so far
as to call them an Opeth copycat band because Fearscape does incorporate many other influences...like I said
before...Metallica, some metalcore, and even some classical influences. They even do a bass solo song called "Fall
of Icarus". It's just that they don't hide the fact of where their biggest comparisons lie.
As for the rest of the package, the band compliments their hefty tunes with some nice production,
above average packaging, and some really good, quality lyrics. "Die to Me" offers some very powerful words regarding
the topic of suicide and how even when all seems hopeless, Christ is still seeking out your soul...."Many chances I had for
redemption/Frequent my excuses for exemption/The light of my life now is fading/The darkness surrounds, now is choking/Ebbing
away my life is flowing/Peace gone now agony growing/My opened wrists my blood is flowing/But still I hear Him calling."
All in all, this Australian four-piece has really given me hope for Steve Rowe's ability to
find and sign quality metal bands. Fearscape puts forth a professional effort here that will take some patience getting
into, but will be one that will be worth the effort. A band to keep your eyes on for sure. (Review by Matt)