Metal veterans Nodes of Ranvier are known for combining technical guitar riffs, bone-crushing breakdowns, and cerebral lyrics with the bludgeoning attack of death metal. After making a name for themselves in the underground scene as the flagship act of Christian metal stronghold Facedown Records, Nodes of Ranvier make the jump to Victory with their fourth full-length album, Defined By Struggle.
Much like fellow Facedown alumnus Sinai Beach, the jump from a Christian label to a first-rate indie has done nothing to dampen the band's furious aesthetic. If anything, Nodes of Ranvier sound just as strong as ever and those familiar with this band should like what they hear. Pummeling riffs and anvil-heavy breakdowns abound on Defined By Struggle and those addicted to the "Solid State sound" should get a pretty good fix. The more one listens to this album, however, the more it seems that this initial dose of familiarity, while welcome, eventually does more to hinder this album, than aid it.
Not as varied or imaginative as their self-titled 2003 release, nor as sharp and immediate as The Years To Come, Defined By Struggle contains a much narrower sonic focus than Nodes' previous albums and as such, it ends up sounding a tad repetitive in the process. Due to the presence of familiar elements (the gang vocal choruses on "Purpose in Pain," the epic breakdowns in the title track and even the trademark instrumental in "Nagheenanajar"), one can't shake the feeling that The Years To Come was copied a little too closely for this album's own good. Considering that Nodes has managed to carve a comfortable niche for themselves in the crowded metalcore genre with their slight (yet appreciable) individuality, this formulaic repetition is a slight letdown.
Despite these complaints, Nodes of Ranvier are still one of the better bands in Christian metalcore and fans of August Burns Red, Haste the Day or As I Lay Dying can't go wrong with checking this disc out. Not quite an exceptional album, Defined By Struggle remains an above-average and worthy addition to this band's impressive discography.- Review date: 8/28/07, written by Sherwin Frias
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