ALBUM REVIEW: Stake – Critical Method

Release Date: November 1st 2019
Label: Hassle Records


‘Critical Method’, the debut full-length from Belgian post-metal act Stake, is very much what you would anticipate from a post-metal band’s debut.

The riffs are mammoth and groove laden, with the tracks exuding a strong melodic presence. They ebb and flow with a blend of ferocity and tranquillity, yet there’s an alarming disparity between the two. This is an issue that continues to worsen as the album progresses.

With clear influence taken from the likes of Cult Of Luna, The Ocean, and Kyuss, these songs bear all the hallmark traits of tried and tested post-metal motifs, but lacking a certain finesse. The performances are faultless with layered guitars, frantic yet soaring vocals, and a noticeably crisp production. The problem lies somewhere within the writing itself; a certain lack of coalescence between the styles and influences that the group are attempting to combine.

The melodic passages, for instance, often come off as radio-friendly and cookie cutter, especially in the latter half of the album. This juxtaposition with the intense heavier sections forms quite an incoherent listening experience, which is an utter shame, as the serious sense of malodorous intent becomes diluted regularly. Now, this balance is a strong component of what makes great post-metal artists so compelling, but if not crafted precisely can lead to these missteps.

Not to say that Stake have written a bad album – far from it – the record simply has the misfortune of bearing the majority of errors which can occur from a post-metal group tackling their debut effort. What starts strong and demanding eventually descends into formulaic territory, which is a complete no-no when dealing with these niche genres.

By the time the bland semi-interlude ‘Devolution’ ends before leading into the hardcore leaning ‘Doped Up Salvations’, the band have run out of steam. Any earlier attempts at naturally segueing between heavier and more melodic passages becomes totally disregarded, with a genuine sense of rushing towards the finish line.

What’s frustrating is that Stake are evidently talented with a clear vision of who they want to be as artists. It’s the execution where these songs falter. At times monstrously heavy and precise, more delicacy needs to be devoted to making these tracks breathe with a natural sense of melody. It’s only then will their attempts stand firmly upon the shoulders of the post-metal giants that they have chosen to follow.