San Antonio's resident hardcore brutalists, Illustrations, deliver their debut album and it is nothing short of amazing. Complex and varied songwriting runs the gamut of emotions and styles on In Vain. A squeal and then we are off! Thick bass and meaty riffs with a hardcore attitude and metallic pulse create a sense of power on the album's opener, Take My Body Away. The vocals are nearly death metal and suit the heaviness of the music, especially during the song's blasting segments. Heaven is a tad more melodic, yet just as crushing with its Asphyx-esque grooves. There is a true sense of death metal rhythms surfacing early in this track. The creeping pace of the track is enhanced by the ropey bass featured in the middle. Taking the polar opposite approach is Always Losing. Explosions of drums and frenzied riffing surge immediately. The song then drops into sludgy tempos that plod along like a mechanical giant before devolving into ambient squeals and then recomposing itself into that trudging pace once again. Widower is a traditional metallic hardcore song with melodic accents. Die Young is emotional and has a sense of sorrow permeating its riffs. There are near-melodies floating throughout the fabric of the track. The main riff of the track is a thick but heartfelt piece that is flooded with nostalgia and then explodes into shoegaze tainted, black metal speed as it finishes out. Speaking of black metal, the final cut, Leave Me has a hypnotic black metal riff as its foundation and then breaks into short stints of emotional midtempo meandering and chugging grooves. The calm, clean guitar is soooo beautiful and instills a sense of melancholy within me. Illustrations has crafted a debut that hits harder and stays longer with me than nearly any of their contemporaries. Black metal, death metal, hardcore, metalcore, etc, it all is eloquently sewn together to form an album that is muscular but sensitive at the same time. I love it.