Calico System – The Duplicated Memory

Calico System
The Duplicated Memory

I admit it: I have a bad habit. I take one look at a band’s art and lyrics and instantly judge them. It’s not like I mean to. It just sort of happens. Thankfully, most times the music overturns my opinion of them, and I come off relieved that I didn’t actually say anything to anyone about my stupid opinion.
I’m sorry to say that Calico System lends itself to my habit easily. The band’s lyrics are preoccupied with blood, death, and lost love. These are generically tough topics to breathe life into. And, with the exception of a few lines here and there (mostly in “Suicide Common”), they don’t succeed in making much more than the average lyric. And their art, well…it’s made to look like blood spattered on all over everything. That means that Calico System used the most common metal cliché there is. There’s nothing else to think but “Hey, that’s gonna be a lame, poser-ish metal/metalcore band!”
I found out I was wrong (as always), but it actually took three or four listens to figure that out. The first time I listened to it, I wasn’t impressed. I found it cliché, boring, and ultimately too macho for its own good. I had even partially written a bad review of it. But it was so negative that I went back and listened to The Duplicated Memory again, cause I hate to write a bad review unless I’m deadly sure that a band is bad. On more careful examination of The Duplicated Memory, the positives heavily outweigh the negatives.
The most apparent, obvious things are what turned me off the first time. They just seem to use screams all too often. Their credibility is also knocked down a peg because of the seemingly repetitive chug of the guitars. The lyrics aren’t that great, and, altogether, the surface is pretty bland.
If you delve deeper, you’ll find a diversity in this that could easily be overlooked. Calico System uses a melodic, clean structure a lot more often than you realize at first. When Mark Owen sings over the blasting guitars, it’s easy to overlook how impressive the vocal delivery is. But when he sings over the quieter, less deadly musical landscapes, it’s pretty awesome, because he can actually sing really well! This is clearly demonstrated on both “Room with a View” and “Suicide Common.” In fact, once you realize how impressive the vocals are, you notice that the screaming (also supplied by Mark Owen, in an unexpected twist) really isn’t that bad either, or in that much quantity. It’s roughly equal to the amount of sung vocals.
The “seemingly repetitive chug” I spoke of earlier is just that. Seemingly. Each song is diverse in its own way, with the almost punkish vibe of “Resilience in Time” contrasting against modern rock of “It’s Fair to Say,” the straight-out metal vibe of “Blood of a Diary,” and the metalcore/alternative metal of “Soft Lips and Headstones.” In fact, they even include a song that is nearly emo: the short, yet powerful, “Two Lovers and a Tower,” which may be the only song ever to include birds chirping as part of the effect.
It took a while to stick, but in the end, this CD blew me away. This is not for the casual listener, as you’ll find yourself unimpressed. But if you’re a fan of metalcore/melodic hardcore/whatever the name is now for lighter metal, you will find this to be a jewel in your collection. You’ll definitely find yourself treasuring this like the rare thing it is: one excessively loud, engrossingly interesting, and completely awesome album. Now..if we could only adjust the artwork some…