Review by Saxon Sauter-Schultz
Album cover courtesy of Sumerian Records
In a scene full of try-hards desperately wanting to break new ground, it’s about time that a band comes around looking to renovate Metal music, rather than making a poor attempt at innovating it. That band would be After the Burial, an Extreme Metal band based out of Minneapolis, MN, whose music generally serves as an observation of what is currently trending in modern Metal. What makes this band so great is that they utilize musical elements that would usually deem a group as generic (although, this type of judgement is usually only cast down by elitist, snobby nerds whose biased, closed-minded opinions aren’t meant to be taken that seriously in the first place), and yet they still end up with something that is unique. No matter how much a certain idea has been practiced, it seems as though they can put anything through their musical filter, and it’ll translate as something that is fresh and genuine. 
Now, we have “Dig Deep”, the latest release from the Minnesota quartet (formerly quintet). This album continues the evolution of ATB, without straying from the heart of their sound. So far with their discography, they’ve managed to make progress while maintaining consistency. To do this, each album focuses on different elements of their musical palette: “Forging A Future Self” focused more on Thrashy, Melodic Death Metal traits, “Rareform” was a more technical record, and “In Dreams” was a simpler, more formulaic album (in the sense that it followed more traditional methods of song progression, with frequent uses of choruses and singing brought into the equation). Where as their album, “Wolves Within”, reflected upon the first three releases, and provided a peak into the future of After the Burial, “Dig Deep” shows them taking that established sound of theirs, and redesigning it, as well as further expanding upon new ideas. It is as mature as it is dark, and the latter trait is quite fitting, considering that this album is following the tragic passing of former guitarist, Justin Lowe (whose ideas still made it on to the record). While there is diversity in the pace and flow of this record, each track has some sort of brooding, eerie energy floating over it........it’s just haunting. Oh, and let’s not forget......this album is heavy to the max. Whether it be the tight grooves of tracks such as “Collapse” and “Lost In the Static”, the blistering fretwork and blast beats of “The Endless March”, “Deluge”, and “Catacombs”, the crushing low end of “Mire” and “Heavy Lies the Ground”, or the earth shattering breakdowns demonstrated in songs such as “Laurentian Ghosts” and “Sway of the Break”, there’s all sorts of brutality to go around for any Metal head. 
The lyrics add to the moody, haunting nature of this album. Lead vocalist Anthony Notarmaso once again demonstrates his lyrical genius, as he discusses several different types of struggles, ranging from public to personal. What’s fantastic about his way of articulation is how he strikes you with a certain emotion, without directly stating said emotion with his words (as opposed to a lot of Metal lyricists who rely on the harshest, most extreme of words to get their point across). He has a very poetic, beautiful way of writing, and whether he’s describing something that is glorious, or something that is tragic and upsetting, there always remains a sense of tranquility in his writing. Most importantly, the delivery of the lyrics on this album is incredible. When Anthony speaks, you believe every single word he says. Ranging from big, deep enraged growls and shouts, to banshee/demon-like screams, to hardcore style yelling, and even fast, choppy, staccato hip-hop style patterns, his vocals are fueled with energy and emotion from beginning to end.  
Last, but not least, the production on this record is stellar. After the Burial decided to step away from the board this time and let producer Will Putney (whose done work for The Acacia Strain, Northlane, Thy Art is Murder, Fit For An Autopsy, Oceano, and more) take hold of production duties for this monster of an album. The difference between ATB self-producing and them having a producer take control is drastic, and for the better. Anybody who has seen them live knows that they are one of the tightest, cleanest, and most powerful sounding live Metal acts on the market, but their previous records weren’t much of an indication of that. Actually, their previous studio efforts sounded tinny and weak in comparison (although still a hell of a lot better than any trve, cvlt Black Metal album), and even some of the dynamics were lost, especially when it came to the drum mixing. All of those problems have been abolished on “Dig Deep”.......the velocity and the tones that are heard in their phenomenal live sound are faithfully resembled on this recording, at long last. Everything is crisp, every last note played by Trent Hafdahl is distinguishable, Lee Foral’s bass sits perfectly in the mix, providing the beefiness that this music requires (with a little assistance from a few well placed 808 drops) without overwhelming the rest of the instruments, and Dan Carle’s excellent drumming is complimented, with every subtlety standing out like a sore thumb. This record is huge, clean, and polished, but it still has an authentic, organic sound, which is something that a lot of Metal bands nowadays lack. Dr. Putney knocked this one out of the park, and it will go down as his opus of production work. 
After the Burial have finally crafted a masterpiece in the studio. They picked each other up in a time of grief and despair, and put out a definitive recording that will appeal to current fans, make new ones, and ultimately, stand the test of time. Every riff has a purpose, every word has a purpose, every rhythm, every beat, and every drum fill serves its purpose. The songs are heavy, brutal, and aggressive, yet they are beautiful, energetic, and motivating at the same time. As you listen, you can be head banging at one moment, and then dancing at the next, or you could be smiling, and then clenching your teeth in anger, then balling your eyes out, and then go back to smiling again (and maybe even laughing). This band has made Metal music more fun and more meaningful than ever, and they are on the rise. Watch out, Metal albums of 2016......you have a mighty competitor, a perfect album. That album is none other than “Dig Deep” by After the Burial. 
Rating: 10/10 
Riff In Peace, Justin Lowe