Album Review: Burner – It All Returns to Nothing

Album Review: Burner - It All Returns to Nothing
Reviewed by Dan Barnes

Twelve months ago – almost to the day – I had the good fortune of being able to review Burner’s debut EP A Vision of the End, wherein I suggested the band were the real-deal and more than worthy of the praise heaped upon them by the likes of Metal Hammer magazine, who had cited them as being one of the bands to watch in 2022.

So, here we are, a whole year later and Burner is set to unleash It All Returns to Nothing, the equally nihilistically-titled debut full-length, though Church Road Records. The intervening time has seen Burner sharing stages with Employed to Serve, Tuskar and Portrayal of Guilt, as well as heading out on their own tour and that additional experience shines through in an even more accomplished set of songs than the EP offered.

You could look at It All Returns to Nothing as an album of two halves: six of its eleven tracks playing into the band’s more direct extremity, borrowing Death Metal tropes from the Floridan sound of the late eighties or the icy Black Metal from frozen Scandinavian forests.

Kicking off with Hurt Locker’s chugging DM riff and gruff, guttural vocals and then morphing into a screeching BM riot of violence amid face-ripping guitars and soul-searching breakdowns is something of a staple of this side of Burner’s aesthetic. Pyramid Head opens with a clean guitar but wastes little time corrupting it into a mire of dirty tones and filthy bass lines. The hardcore elements are more prevalent here then in any of this suite of songs, but the moments of edgy, unsettling guitar are but brief and fleeting as the song returns to more punishing DM.

Album Review: Burner - It All Returns to Nothing

EF5 is built around a cacophony of furious drumming, yet somehow manages to slide in a hook-laden chorus breakdown. Pillar of Shame and its extended coda, Trinity, is where It All Returns to Nothing is at its most dark, with the former borrowing elements of the epic and the classic, setting it against swathes of the symphonic and a raw-throated howl to show the album at its grimmest and most frost-bitten.

The second facet of Burner’s debut deals with a far more modern sensibility, though not without the DM or BM elements, only in a less upfront presentation. It is in these songs that the real promise of A Vision of the End is realised, using the schizophrenic, off-kilter rhythms of a Converge or a Code Orange.

The fluctuating timings of the title track sees the guitars and drums battling for sonic supremacy; the drumming is masterly on Struggle Session as the ripping guitars scorch across the landscape, leaving the bass to bring it all home. Both Prometheus Reborn and The Long March are the more HC infused compositions here, playing with those intersecting lines of instrumentation and pulsing, organic rhythms.

As with the EP, Burner has a surprise as It All Returns to Nothing winds to its close, in the shape of the seven-minute epic, An Affirming Flame. Not only does this song take in on a whistle-stop journey of the record, but also introduces us to new flavours of the band. At one point a sawing riff takes us seamlessly into a tolling bass and chanting vocal not unlike Black Sabbath; elsewhere heavy hardcore pounding gives way to a post hardcore oasis of clam and onto a post metal moment that could be picked from Cult of Luna’s Salvation record. So natural are these switches that the closing BM and final DM rips are merely part and parcel of the experience.

After that odyssey, there’s only really the seventy-second grinding aggression of Waco Horror able to bring the album to its conclusion.

It All Returns to Nothing is a fine album, made even more impressive by the relative inexperience of its creators. To paraphrase The Green Mile: if Burner can make a debut record this good, what will their third or forth or fifth album be like? Only time will tell, but the omens are looking good.

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