July 2, 2021 Born of Osiris – Angel or Alien (Album Review)
The pandemic forced change upon us all and the Progressive Metalcore outfit Born of Osiris is no different. What was initially intended as a quick follow-up to 2019’s The Simulation, a collection of pre-recorded material that would serve as a kind of Simulation: Part Deux, seemingly fell apart when the big ‘Pause’ button was pressed on the world. It was enough to slow the Illinois quintet’s powerful roll and alter their course. Borne of this odd time in history, Angel or Alien, their sixth full-length, arrived on Friday, July 2, 2021 thanks to Sumerian Records.
It comes almost exactly 12 years to the date of release of their full-length debut, A Higher Place, an album that helped the band to pioneer the sub-genre of Progressive Metalcore. Through their passion for their craft and dedication to evolving and fine-tuning that sound, they have survived beyond a decade in a world that seemingly swallows up new musicians as fast as it spits out new ones. But in order to stay relevant, the Chicagoans understand that they must continue to push forward and refuse to fall victim to the dark allure of complacency.
So now, Born of Osiris—Vocalist Ronnie Canizaro, Keyboardist/Vocalist Joe Buras, Guitarist Lee McKinney, Bassist/Guitarist Nick Rossi, and Drummer Cameron Losch—has taken a turn. Striving to reinvigorate their inner-flame while staving off naysayers and purists, they simultaneously embrace their roots and a bold new outlook on a 14-song collection that is as authentic as it is surprising.
In a bid to bridge the gap between The Simulation and Angel or Alien, they use their past material to, at times, harken backward as they trudge forward. It’s most easy to hear this on the titular “Angel or Alien,” where they wink at long-time fans with an undeniably infectious hook that should be familiar. Similar homages to the past are present throughout the album, with the stomp of “Threat of Your Presence” being another noteworthy example.
They use these nods to smooth the ruffles inherent in a transition, paving the way for a more likely acceptance of their newest elements. Mainly, the saxophone. Initially arriving at the beginning of the collection, on the dangerously catchy “Poster Child,” the brass triumphantly returns for several appearances before holding court on the grand finale, “Shadowmourne.” A seemingly disparate match for Metal, the instrument’s inclusion defies genre norms and joyfully spits in the face of those aforementioned purists.
But much of the album is exactly what one would expect from the band, just matured and refined to the next level—like the detonation of “White Nile,” howling “Crossface,” and the maddeningly short gut punch of “You Are the Narrative.” Though the brutality of a track titled “Oathbreaker” is expected, it is the deliciously melodic synths that complement this explosion that provide a truly surprising eargasm. Meanwhile, lest you think they are losing their edge, Canizaro morphs into a gremlin to deliver the self-inflicted lies of “Truth and Denial.”
Of course, there’s plenty more to Angel or Alien. It’s an album that weighs heavy on Buras’ key and synth-work, pairing the beautiful with the pummeling (“Echobreather”), offering astounding compositions that demand your attention (“Lost Souls,” “Waves”), as well as confessional moments chock full of sincere emotion (“Love Story”). Flourishes of cinematic imagery can be felt in even the most slaughtering moments (“In For the Kill”), and through it all there is McKinney’s exceptional guitar finesse pirouetting around his bandmates as they deliver their finest hour, to date.
It is hard to fault an album that rekindles its creators’ inner-flame as it transcends genre-imposed boundaries to take their sound to the next step in its ongoing evolution. Some bands desperately try, but fail, losing their identities amid the tornado of change. Fortunately, Born of Osiris is able to maneuver gracefully through their self-created storm, displaying a strength that is felt throughout every one of the 14 tracks on Angel or Alien. For this, Cryptic Rock gives their latest 5 of 5 stars.