The Faceless is a California progressive death metal band. Characterized by their eclectic sound, tendency to change their approach with each album, and near-constant turnover, they exploded out of the gate and quickly became one of the biggest names in tech, and while band turmoil may be an issue, it hasn't done much of anything to sink them.
Formed in Encino, California in 2004 by Michael Keene (guitars, clean vocals) and Brandon Giffin (bass), the band quickly welcomed in Brett Batdorf on drums, though the vocalist situation was a little more volatile. Various shows occurred in spite of this, and in 2005, the band began work on an EP and released a live demo to tide people over until then. By this time, the lineup had grown to include Derek Rydquist (vocals), Steve Jones (guitar), and Michael Sherer (keyboards), though Batdorf left immediately after recording his drum tracks. The band had since decided to turn the EP into a full album, and so they drafted various drummers to do session work on the remaining tracks. It worked, and Akeldama was released in November of 2006 on Sumerian Records to quite a bit of acclaim. Sherer departed sometime after, though 2007 finally brought with it a stable drummer in the form of Lyle Cooper. A fair amount of touring followed, and the band was finally getting their feet under them. They began work on a second full-length after this, and Planetary Duality the result, coming out almost exactly two years after Akeldama. This proved to be their breakthrough, as they had shed the deathcore trappings of their first album in favor of a fairly unique spin on technical death metal. Lots and lots and lots of touring followed, and things stayed quite stable until Giffin left in 2010, with Jared Lander quickly jumping in to take his place. That year also brought a spot on the Summer Slaughter Tour along with various other tours, but the prospect of a new album was beginning to loom. Come 2011, and Rydquist had quit, with Geoff Ficco of Kamikabe taking his place. A pre-production version of "The Eidolon Reality", a new track, quickly showed up on YouTube; additionally, Lander left sometime around then as well, with bass extraordinaire Evan Brewer filling the spot.
As one could guess, more touring occurred, and another lineup change occurred in 2012 when Jones departed and Wes Hauch took his place. The new album was still slowly creeping along, and come August of that year, it had finally dropped. The reaction to Autotheism was mixed. Some praised it for expanding on the progressive elements of Planetary Duality, while others decried it as pretentious, derivative nonsense that ripped off a ton of bands rather than doing anything new. It still sold very well, however, debuting at #50 on the Billboard 200 and resulting in a whole lot more touring. 2013 brought nothing out of the ordinary with it, which is to say more touring and a lineup change. Cooper was the one who left this time, though the fans weren't too upset about the introduction of young hotshot Alex Rudinger in his place. The rest of the year was uneventful, and 2014 proved to be more of the same with the exception of Hauch departing to join a reforming Glass Casket until late October, when Brewer and Rudinger abruptly quit for reasons not entirely known, and the trend continued with Ficco's departure in December 2014. Keene has yet to make a statement on the band's future.
As of February 2015, Justin McKinney of The Zenith Passage has been announced as a new guitarist. Replacements for Ficco, Brewer, and Rudinger have still not been announced, though an Instagram photo posted by McKinney confirmed that Julian Kersey (Aegaeon) and Chason Westmoreland are on the roster. Due to Westmoreland's other commitments, it's unknown if this is the final lineup or just a temporary one. More lineup changes occurred over the course of 2015; Rydquist and Giffin were both supposed to return on at least a studio basis only for it to fall through, Justin McKinney (The Zenith Passage) joined on a full-time basis as a second guitarist, and Westmoreland quietly joined on a full-time basis between the end of the year and the beginning of 2016. As of mid-2016, Ken Sorceron (Abigail Williams) has been doing live vocals, and according to people who have talked to Keene and/or McKinney about it, he is most likely full-time as well. A full-time bassist has apparently been found as well, and they are apparently putting on the finishing touches on a new album for a release around the very end of 2016 or the beginning of 2017. Eventually In Becoming a Ghost was made available on December 1, 2017.
As of March 19, 2018, the entire lineup save for Michael Keene has dissolved. According to Keene, the band is currently locking in a new lineup. Word of God is that the lineup that played several shows in April is not permanent; while Jacob Umansky has confirmed that he will be doing their early summer headlining tour and both Julian Kersey and Andrew Virrueta have hinted that they will also be doing the tour, Gabe Seeber made it clear from the get-go that he was only filling in for two shows and would likely have no further involvement with the band. Whether any of them will formally join remains to be seen.
- Nightmare Fest (2006) - live demo
- Akeldama (2006)
- Planetary Duality (2008)
- Autotheism (2012)
- The Spiraling Void (2015) - single
- Black Star (2017) - single
- In Becoming a Ghost (2017)
The band contains examples of the following tropes:
- Addled Addict: Michael Keene. While he finally admitted in an interview in 2018 that their difficulties in the mid-2010s were due to his out-of-control drug issues and struggles to get clean, it was a widely-known fact in certain circles well before that.
- All Drummers Are Animals: Chason Westmoreland is known for his incredibly aggressive, hard-hitting, and improvisation-heavy playing style. Downplayed in that he didn't really show too much of this in The Faceless aside from his immense power.
- Ascended Extra: Chason Westmoreland, Ken Sorceron, and Bryce Butler until they quit.
- Badass Beard: Ken Sorceron.
- Berserk Button: Keene gets extremely angry if people insult his veganism. He has even apparently violently attacked people who have been particularly rude or obnoxious about it at various points.
- Black Metal: In Becoming a Ghost has prominent black metal (particularly symphonic black) elements, with "Digging the Grave," "Cup of Mephistopheles" and the cover of "Shake the Disease" being among the most prominent manifestations.
- Concept Album: Planetary Duality (about The Reptilians), Autotheism (about the process of humanity's collective self-realization and abandonment of religion), and In Becoming a Ghost (about Keene's drug-related struggles).
- Cover Version: They have covered "Shake the Disease".
- Deathcore: Akeldama. They later shed it with Planetary Duality.
- Drugs Are Bad: The Faceless' recurring lineup issues, habitual tour and fest cancellations, and protracted development process for their fourth full-length can all be chalked up to Keene's longstanding drug problems and seeming inability to get his shit together. In Becoming a Ghost wound up being an entire album devoted to acknowledging that he made a massive mistake with them.
- Epic Rocking: "Emancipate" takes the cake at 7:20, though "Deconsecrate" and "In Solitude" aren't far behind at 6:39 and 6:27, respectively.
- I Am the Band: Michael Keene, though Steve Jones, Wes Hauch, and Justin McKinney have all made writing contributions.
- In Spite of a Nail: Fans who were not happy with the heavily Black Metal-based turn that In Becoming a Ghost took blamed Ken Sorceron for forcing the change due to his vocal style. In reality, the album was written before he even joined, let alone tracked his vocals.
- Lead Bassist: Giffin and Brewer are both Type A examples, with Brewer doubling as a Type C due to his well-known instrumental solo career.
- Loudness War: A HUGE problem throughout their career, particularly on Planetary Duality, which had a notoriously poor production in regard to the drums.
- Metal Scream: Rydquist and Ficco were Type 2s, while Sorceron is a Type 3.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Soft 10/very hard 9 on their first two albums, hard-ish 9 on Autotheism and In Becoming a Ghost.
- New Sound Album: Several:
- Planetary Duality shed the deathcore elements of Akeldama and increased the technicality to compensate, in addition to toning down the keyboards.
- Autotheism toned down the technicality and played up the progressive rock influences, in addition to giving the clean vocals far greater prominence.
- In Becoming a Ghost has extremely prominent Black Metal elements with a greater focus on orchestration, as well as some minor Industrial Metal touches.
- Nobody Loves the Bassist: They don't even have one at the moment and have used live backing tracks since Evan Brewer left. Brandon Giffin was supposed to track In Becoming a Ghost but couldn't due to scheduling conflicts, so Keene tracked it himself, and while Jacob Umansky (Painted in Exile) was supposed to do live session bass on Summer Slaughter 2017, his own live session work with Intervals nipped that in the bud and they had to go back to using a backing track. Umansky eventually wound up filling in for them on several dates in 2018 after the second mass departure.
- Not What I Signed on For/Fan Disillusionment: Explicitly stated by Bryce Butler. As a longtime fan, he was elated at the chance to become a Promoted Fanboy, but once he was actually in the band, he quickly realized just how hideously dysfunctional it was and was all too happy to depart alongside Sorceron and McKinney after their nightmare of a European tour in early 2018.
- Prima Donna Director: Between the band's high turnover, his known perfectionist tendencies, and statements from former members, Keene definitely seems to be one of these.
- Progressive Metal: Autotheism and In Becoming a Ghost.
- Religion Rant Album: Autotheism is this at its core.
- Revolving Door Band: Let's put it this way: they have had two complete mass departures that have left Keene as the sole member. TWO.
- Sexophone: On "Deconsecrate" thanks to Sergio Flores, aka the "Sexy Sax Man".
- Shout-Out: "The Spiraling Void": "Round and round and round we spin/With feet of lead and wings of tin"
- Small Name, Big Ego: As the years have unfolded and the band has gained a reputation for large amounts of ridiculous drama, this is the reputation that Michael Keene has earned: an arrogant manchild and incorrigible diva whose talent as a musician and writer is overshadowed by his laziness, toxicity as a person, complete and utter lack of insight into how his behavior is the cause of most of his problems, and his proclivity for loudly taking credit for the hard work of others, and while drugs did explain some of it, it has become abundantly clear that the bulk of this had little to do with them and a lot to do with who he was as a person.
- Soprano and Gravel: Employs a dual-vocal setup, with Sorceron (as well as Rydquist and Ficco before him) handling harsh vocals and Keene handling cleans.
- Special Guest: Various.
- On album: Brett Batdorf, Andy Taylor (Diskreet), Navene Koperweis, and Nick Pierce all tracked session drums on Akeldama, while Sergio Flores played a saxophone solo on "Deconsecrate" and a flute solo on "Digging the Grave"; lastly, Rydquist returned to do vocals on multiple tracks on In Becoming a Ghost, including all of "The Spiraling Void".
- Live: Nico Santora, Anthony Barone (A Night in Texas), Julian Kersey (ex-Aegaeon), James Knoerl, Andrew Virrueta (Interloper), Jacob Umansky (Painted in Exile), Gabe Seeber (The Kennedy Veil), Aaron Stechauner (ex-Rings of Saturn), Taylor Wientjes, and Cody Pulliam (Aenimus) are or were all explicitly live fill-ins, while Bryce Butler started out as this and wound up becoming an Ascended Extra.
- Stage Names: Ken Sorceron's actual last name is Bergeron, but absolutely no one who knows him refers to him by anything other than Sorceron.
- Start My Own: Rudy started the instrumental metal project Conquering Dystopia with Jeff Loomis, Keith Merrow, and Alex Webster, while Brewer started Entheos with Navene Koperweis, Frank Costa (both ex-Animosity), and Chaney Crabb.
- Subverted with Cooper's bands Absvrdist and Abhorrent, as they were both around while he was in The Faceless. He just didn't have the time to do anything with them.
- Technical Death Metal: Akeldama (coupled with deathcore) and Planetary Duality (a straightforward example).
- Textless Album Cover: For the time being, In Becoming a Ghost.
- Walking the Earth: How Ken lives. The man spends the vast majority of his time on the road as either a musician or a tour assistant (be it sound, merch, or just hauling shit and driving), and the weeks between tours are usually spent doing mixing and mastering work for extra cash plus the occasional temporary job unless one of his bands is writing and/or recording a new album. It also means that you either can work with him or you can't, as he has the personality that you would expect a road warrior type to have and not everyone can gel with that.
- We Used to Be Friends: Michael Keene and Ken Sorceron were longtime friends well before the latter joined, but two years of being in a band together completely destroyed their friendship and every last trace of Ken's good will towards Keene.