What do you get when you mix Killswitch Engage, Bring Me the Horizon, The Human Abstract, and Meshuggah?  I’m so glad you asked, what is created from this glorious combination is the magnificent studio project called Meditator, which is comprised of James “King” Downs (vocals & co-writer) and Max Garceau (guitar, bass, co-writer, engineer, and producer), who are set to release their debut album, A Darkness Unknown, on March 2nd.  A Darkness Unknown is a concept album of sorts, meant to raise awareness and extinguish the stigma of mental illness, as well as issues such as bullying and domestic violence.

A Darkness Unknown kicks off with the rager Subconscious W(A)r, the track immediately lets you know that this is NOT an album for pussies. Downs means business with his blood curdling screams and Garceau lays down some wicked riffage from start to finish.  The chorus, which slows things down quite a bit, highlights Downs clean vocal ability and the metalcore influence that is apparent throughout the album.  The track is short but sweet, lyrically capturing the struggle of those tormented by PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

The second track, (N)egative Reality begins with an excerpt from the documentary, Beware the Slenderman, which tells the story of  12-year-old Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier  who lured their friend, Payton Leutner, into the woods, stabbed her 19 times, then left her to die in 2014.  The excerpt comes from a point in the documentary that the director, Irene Taylor Brodsky, is interviewing Matt Geyser, Morgan Geyser’s father, where he is talking about his struggle with schizophrenia and he says, “Like, I have… right now, there’s like patterns of light and geometric shapes that’s, like, always racing.  Like always, like right now. It’s my everything. This is how I’ve always seen things. So, it doesn’t seem weird to me that like, “Oh that’s not how you see street lights?”  Like the glaring demon, devil.  That you’re like, “Okay, this is clearly not real.”  Like you…you can see it and you know it’s not real…but it totally doesn’t matter, because you’re still terrified of it. Like, I know that there’s…I know the devil’s not in the backseat, but the devil is in the backseat.”    Morgan Geyser was diagnosed with schizophrenia and Anissa Weier with schizotypy and a delusion disorder after the murder, both thought they would become intermediaries for the fictional ‘boogeyman’ known as Slenderman by murdering their friend.  This song, like the documentary, is extremely heavy.  Like Meshuggah heavy, with that similar proggy-djent feel that we love but with a little Bring Me The Horizon sprinkled in to the chorus.  There is a sense of chaos, which seemingly captures the schizophrenic mind.  The best way to describe it is the storm before the calm (versus the calm before the storm); poetically capturing the fear, confusing, delusional, and dysfunctional thoughts of Morgan Geyser.  It is my second favorite track on  A Darkness Unknown, not just musically, but also lyrically.  The reason being, (N)egative Reality puts the mental illness component of the girls story into perspective, without even considering their age, just simply how fragile their minds were due to their state of psychosis.  Somehow Downs and Garceau captured that psychological affliction, as well as the terrible end result, in this track; it terrifying, eye-opening, and magnificent all at the same time.

Third up is Xana(X), which is another monster track with a similar formula as (N)egative Reality, super heavy opening with Downs‘ clean vocals rounding out the chorus.  Garceau’s guitar and bass riffs are straight fire on this one, the drums fit so well and seem so ‘natural’ that you forget that they are programmed.  The track’s concept is anxiety, lyrically the song nails it from the first verse, “Well I’m not sleeping anymore.  Endless memories play like movies on repeat.  But I know how they end! I can’t make it stop.  Thoughts in my mind, they float around.  They’re like thousands of equations.  Can’t find the solution.  Help me find the solution.”  The only criticism, and this is seriously nitpicky of me (so forgive me), is that anxiety, to me, is a bit more frantic than the tempo of this track (maybe it just my anxiety, so no I’m not assuming your anxiety).  What I would expect is something more hardcore-esque, like say American Standards (if you don’t know who these guys are, seriously check them out…MIND BOGGLING AMAZINGNESS).  With that said, this is a badass song, so my small gripe is literally me trying to find something to whine about.  The lyric video for Xana(X) can be found here

(I)n Heartache’s Wake speaks to depression and the start of an abusive relationship, while Edg(E) of Hate is the end of the abusive relationship.  Remember a minute ago I mentioned that tempo thing with Xana(X)?  Well, (I)n Heartache’s Wake DOES NOT miss the mark with capturing the feeling of depression or the sadness of an abusive relationship.  It is absolutely perfect.  The song oozes the feelings of desolation, melancholy, and suffering of depression, while also the disappointment, pain, and loneliness of an abusive relationship.  Edg(E) of Hate is super fucking angry, Downs literally sounds like he is foaming at the mouth due to the betrayal, deception, and manipulation by his former significant other.  As someone who was in an abusive relationship (or two) when she was young, this track really spoke to me.  It truly emulates the boiling rage you have after you’ve had your fill of being scared, ashamed, manipulated, isolated, and sad in a super shitty relationship…you get really fucking angry.  Ladies and gents, a relationship should never destroy you, if you ever feel that you’ve lost your sense of self…then you need to get out.  Trust me, love doesn’t hurt….it is hard work and not always rainbows but it doesn’t rip you to shreds. 

Don’t (T)ell Me is my absolute favorite track on A Darkness Unknown because it is so fucking chuggy and heavy.  Garceau’s guitars are once again spectacular, Downs screams and growls like a possessed maniac the entire track and I cannot even put into words how much I LOVE it.  This is the only track without clean vocals and wow-wee-wow-wow is it brilliant. Don’t (T)ell Me addresses bullying in the most metal way possible.  Seriously, if your child is being bullied, introduce them to this song, it will inspire them to kick some ass (not that that is what you want your child to do in a bullying situation but when I was growing up, that is what you did, bully messed with you, you kicked their ass….bully no longer bullied you).  And last but not least, the final track, (Y)ou Will Forever Remember featuring Alec Harrah of Tyrannus speaks to suicide from a suicidal person’s perspective.  This is another strong song musically, overflowing with chaotic, almost frantic measures, followed by heavy breakdowns.  It seems fitting that suicide would wrap up an album looking to shed some light on mental illness.

A Darkness Unknown is thought provoking, moving, heavy, and a damn good all around release by MeditatorDowns screams and growls like a psychopath, initially how good they are takes you by surprise but by the second track you realize this guy has some serious pipes on him.  And Garceau’s guitars and bass compliment the vocal mayhem perfectly.  This release is an example of how important production, specifically mixing and mastering, is to the greatness of an album.  The drums, despite being programmed, are never over the top.  This is a good thing, if Meditator decides to take their badassery to the stage for a live show, the crowd won’t be disappointed with unrealistic expectations of drumming ability when there is a human sitting behind a kit instead of a computer.  Which is a mistake many studio projects make, over engineering and producing so the album’s sound can never reproduced live.  Hats off to you guys, you did a phenomenal job on this albumMake sure to pick up your copy next Friday, March 2nd.  Bloodrock Rating:  4.5 out of 5.0 axes

P.S. You will also notice links throughout this review on specific words, the links lead to definitions of the referenced mental illness or national hotlines to get obtain free, professional help with bullying, domestic abuse, and/or suicide.

1. Subconscious W(A)r
2. (N)egative Reality
3. Xana(X)
4. (I)n Heartache’s Wake
5. Edg(E) of Hate
6. Don’t (T)ell Me…
7. (Y)ou Will Forever Remember…

James “King” Downs – vocals
Max Garceau – guitars & bass

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Written by April Baggins for Bloodrock Media on February 22, 2018