Album Review: Reflections – Willow

Deathcore is a hard genre that has a stigma attached due to so many generic bands that saturate the scene. Reflections’ latest release, Willow, exemplifies this issue as it does nothing special with its positive aspects or its sins. It will make for good background music if you want something heavy without any musical substance.

Synthetics opens up the record with a spotlight on Jake Wolf’s vocals while having a distorted background. The vocals set the tone for what’s to come, but I thought throughout Willow, Wolf’s voice from his death metal-inspired screams to more metalcore sound mixes well and gives much-needed variety. The instrumentation comes in spurts with equal amounts of distortion and a load of nastiness, giving me a false positive impression before I get smacked with underwhelming followups.

Coming straight into my face with its unapologetic violence comes From Nothing. The instrumentation is more pronounced, making an even landscape between the other members and their vocalist. A prominent bass compliments the distorted guitars in the neverending breakdowns and changing tempos. The vocals continue to shine with terrifying screams and haunting moments of talking.

Things seem to keep going relatively strong with the pounding percussive power of Psychosis. Relentlessly shifts gears with its messy structure that is heard throughout. It kept me on my toes without delivering on too much depth, a running theme that’s to come.

Ominous start with quiet bass and drumming before everything jumps in for the attack. The intro goes on for a while before vocals come in with brutally low screams that initially match the bass in tone. The cord gets cut off for an eerie break for room to breath before an even heavier second act. That eeriness lurks in the background then goes back into the shadows only to come back in other parts, keeping an unpredictability to the predictability of Isolation.

Going into a more hard-driving mindset, Marionette has a nice presentation that soon runs short. The relentless speed quickly gets boring and goes dry as this track loses anything else to say.

Dismal is the official point I realized this review will be rough as I had the rest of this record to digest. Despite changes in tempo and demonic vocals, it blends together with the methods executed in all of the previous songs so far.

The highlight of the record, and arguably the only good song comes from Samsara. Distant clean vocals with guitar work looming even further along with beats that pop in and out. The cleans and screams weave together as the drums keep up, leaving the guitars and bass behind. The contrast I needed to give me a breath of fresh air I needed to take in. The melody adds beauty to the hellish landscape, along with additional emotion that started to flatten out in the last few songs.

Empathy does not keep up with that level of experimentation. Like a drug addict out of rehab, it goes straight back into the dumpster to find a dirty needle. Has some melody thrown in the backseat, gets drowned out by the rest of the generic breakdowns. This is beyond boring right here.

Seven Stages keeps together a rhythm to the breakdown that makes for a satisfying flow. The lead guitar takes ahold of the song by not following the path that has been paved across the eight other tracks. Not enough to keep my attention throughout.

Illusionist at first leaves plenty of space with breakdowns for pockets of oxygen in the suffocating environment. Gets to a point where no breathing room is left between neverending riffs that go impossibly fast or the relentless drummer.

Some more areas of emptiness between the heaviness come in with Help. It ends up going in the same direction as other tracks without any distinctive characteristics. At this point, please send me some help.

Matching its name, Ghost has an atmospheric eeriness that has the right mood for a concluding track. Goes into some of the heaviest breakdowns accompanied by gruesome vocal work. It does not transition well, but it is a much-needed turn as the introduction went on for too long. The finale slowly dies off with a beating drum replicating a heart that I want to stop to end this record.

The only positive takeaway comes from the vocals matching the emotion to the songs. Even then, a negative immediately comes due to the lack of care I have for anything here, eliminating the soul that could flourish and does not in the end.

When done right, progressive metal can have so much depth to offer with its sound and variety. Reflections do not deliver the subgenre justice as the stigma against both deathcore, metalcore, and djent all come together in this mess. Willow does not commit any crimes too severe but enough to warrant an arrest.

Score: 4/10

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Album Review: Suicide Silence – Become the Hunter

I have an unpopular opinion, I don’t care for Suicide Silence. Before you take your pitchforks, let me say that I highly respect what they have accomplished, and it takes great strength to continue to pursue a career in the same group when your lead vocalist dies. Sadly, Become the Hunter does not go too well as it jogs itself through each track with not much personality.

Meltdown, an instrumental introduction, slowly dips its feet in the water with an eerie beginning before diving in. Classic low tuned riffs with heavy breakdowns make for a good time to headbang. Even with that, it feels rather generic and does not set any recognizable tone for what’s to happen other than the fact that I am about to go through a lot of the same sounding riffs and breakdowns. Thankfully that ominous mood stays in the background for some flavor.

The short verses and choruses make Two Steps feel weird with its pacing on the vocal delivery, which is excellent from Eddie Hermida, who completely abandons his clean style that awkwardly occurred on the last release.  The instrumentation follows the same bland path as Meltdown with the addition of a few highlights. The bridge adds a much needed dark atmosphere while the solo that comes afterward delivers a whiny screech that gives some 80s metal vibes.

The intricacy of Feel Alive does bring this record alive to some degree. The members start to play with more complexity rather than beating me to death with overly simplified breakdowns. It mixes catchiness and brutality that has a drive, unlike the previous track.

I feel lead guitarist Mark Heylmun taking this in a different direction with Love Me to Death before everyone else jumps in to take the wheel to go back where I was in the first place. When I get back to that point, I realize that the deathcore veterans will drag me through an array of generic songs that I have heard from them before.

Some hints of rhythm creep into In Hiding, but as the shortest song next to the introduction, things quickly revert back into hammer a nail on the head without a single thought. Sprinkling in some variety from the instrumentation adds a little more depth that does not entirely save things here. Another whiny solo comes in to give me the oxygen I need to survive.

Death’s Anxiety grabs my attention with its youthful energy. Quickly I lose interest as it blends together with the last few songs. Everything is coming together more and more I get deeper into the band’s sixth release.

The screams stay while the mood changes with Skin Tight. I was shocked hearing the subtly guitar and light drum work to make for an intimate face to face with the vocalist in this weirdly intense song. It goes back and forth between heaviness and somber brutality to create the most dynamic piece across all 11 songs.

Although the members have not saved themselves yet, things start to move in a better direction as they bounce off onto The Scythe. An intense build-up with an unbelievably relentless tight riff with some percussive power booming in and out. The vocals coming in with some hardcore vibes make this song a standout hit as it dives into carnage. This is the deathcore that they should have delivered back on track one, not eight.

The acoustic introduction of Serence Obscene caught me off guard before getting smacked with a violent breakdown. The transition does go smoothly or make much sense in its context, it does weave mayhem and rhythm together in a fairly intriguing way. No clean vocals feature unlike the last record, but a monotoned monologue changes up the scenery before a melodic shift heads to the conclusion of this surprisingly good entry on the final section of the band’s latest release.

Disaster Valley plows through the walls while its punching with percussive power and slashes with its unremarkable riffs. It goes with the trend that has been set with everything else here, breakdown first, think later. After underutilizing the bass, some drops come in that make me actually happy, something I did not expect. Then the best solo comes in with intense melodies and its ear-piercing sound that top it all off.

Oh no, the title track ends up being one of the worst, and it is the closer, big yikes. It throws away all the progress the last few songs made with me by throwing in all the same generic sounds I heard before. To make it worse, the guitar solo is short and has no outstanding qualities.

Not even guest vocalist, Darius Tehrani of Spite could help save the finale to this bland album.

Become the Hunter is unseasoned, flavorless extreme music that shows the band has gone backward since its controversial self titled record. I don’t miss Eddie’s terrible clean vocals that weirdly tried to sound like Chino Moreno from Deftones, but I do wish they tried to fix those issues into something special. Going back to their roots shows how much they gave in into hateful fans rather than sticking to their guns for music that has substance, even if it still sucks.

Score: 4/10

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Album Review: The Acacia Strain – It Comes in Waves

Right when the year is about to be over, The Acacia Strain surprises the world by dropping a seven-track album that makes for a clean 30-minute experience unlike most of the material they have created throughout their long career. I always had great admiration for the band but never fell deeply into their discovery as they don’t match what I seek in what I consume; then I heard It Comes in Waves, which goes against their nature while fitting in their style that has been established over the years. It may fall short in many areas, but it certainly is a nice breath of fresh air from the metal veterans.

Starting things off comes from Our. The introduction coming together with a mix of an industrial buzz and a haunting choir sets the mood perfectly for what’s to come. It bursts open with fire and fury with a range of impressive vocal and instrumental variety that is usually not found on any TAS record. A grander production comes together nicely, but the atmospheric moodiness does get stained slightly by repetitive lyrics that the band has a tendency to do with a breakdown that overstays its welcome.

A mix of heavy and light riffs open up Only that is accompanied by a mellow, yet headbanging worthy tempo. Doom inspires much of the record, but this is the first taste with plenty of dynamic work to let the vocals and instrumentation sit back for moments then jump back in for an assault.

Sin starts off quite somber with delightful guitar work then shifts gears into pure aggression. Every song features some kind of different vocal work from Vincent Bennett, but this is the first off ICIW that took me by surprise. While the doom elements still remain, much of this has a death metal vibe that still has the TAS stamp on it.

An unholy performance and epicness come from Was. It’s mighty feel steps back with a focus on the melody with an added argument between some people in the background. This standout hit has more depth to its story due to the muffled voices that go in between Bennett along with its stance on intensity without having to go overly brutal or lightning fast.

On the flip side, Giving goes into a more violent direction. It has a long, ominous introduction before diving into a complete bloodbath. Its steady pace makes up for the too long of an introduction, which took up too much time out of the two minutes and 55 seconds that lays out this song.

The closest to their signature sound comes in from the shortest track, Them.  It has that relentless aggression but feels more hollow compared to the other more dynamic entries.

The longest and most dangerous sounding concludes the record. Names deceivingly set up a peaceful mood then sets that meadow into flames once the action starts. Consistent changes in performances from every member kept me on my toes for what’s to come next. It builds up to a climax that ends up dying softly before taking a few more breaths of air until it fades away, ending the band’s latest release.

The most impressive aspect is less about the band’s experimentation but more on how everything flows together. Each song stands on its own while sounding like one 30 minute rollercoaster of doom and death.

While I find problems with Bennett’s lyrics, I think this is him at his most poignant. The emotion can be felt here without some goofy line that takes away the meaning like much of their older material. On top of that, it is his best vocal performance as he dives into various styles alongside his signature sound.

I appreciate the change in style across the board from The Acacia Strain. It has the same issues I have always had from the band when it comes to simplicity, especially with the lyrics and parts of the instrumentation. Still, it is a great improvement as the group wants to expand upon their identity in the metal scene.

They have another album recorded entirely, which is supposed to launch next year, so keep an eye out as It Comes in Waves is just the beginning of a new era.

Score: 7/10

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Album Review: Cattle Decapitation – Death Atlas

Cattle Decapitation has been slaughtering the planet for over 20 years and somehow increased in skill across the last decade to be one of the dominant forces in extreme metal. The bar was raised to seemingly impossible heights on their 2015 record, yet Death Atlas manages to touch those levels and in some areas, surpass them.

Rather than going head first, an introduction with Anthropogenic: End of Transmission sends a signal with a dark background, a piano to set the mood and a radio message about humanity’s impending doom. Now, this is a way to send chills down my spine before the first official song on the ninth release by these experts of heavy music.

The Geocide throws out that methodical opening by exploding with lightning speed. While the band is testing the limits of how fast a human being can play the guitar, bass, and drum set, some variation gets mixed in changing tempos to make this already deadly track even more dangerous, I needed to keep on my toes for this one. Along with the fierce instrumentation comes one of the most memorable choruses with Travis Ryan’s disturbingly melodic shrieks.

Keeping up with the fast craftmanship of brutal riffs and bone-breaking percussive power, Be Still Our Bleeding Hearts blends in more rhythm into the madness. As things progress, more melody follows into the apocalyptic backdrop. This is classic Cattle with their current path of advancing the style that has been established over their years in the studio.

The first two follow a traditional song structure with verses, pre-choruses, and choruses. Vulturous is headed for mayhem with its chaotic nature that ignores that form of music-making. This is one of the least forgiving pieces on the album as it goes for constant brutality.

The Great Dying, Pt. 1, gave me a break from low tuned guitars, gutturals, and a relentless bludgeoning. This transmission discusses the latest extinction the world is facing. Similar to End of Transmission, it does not follow well into the next song, making it awkward to walk from one to the other.

Matching the openers along with the classic sound that I have grown to love, One Day Closer to the End of the World, has a reason it was released as the first single. This is the best of both worlds, the familiarity of the band’s style and the progression that has occurred with this album. Nothing beats spidery riffs, never-ending shaking, and ridiculous screams that no human should be able to make naturally.

Bring Back the Plague is a monstrous assault as the instrumentation flows together for a beating that holds back and comes in for more constantly. A switch towards the end, making more an adrenaline-pumping rhythm with seemingly impossible gutturals. This level of heaviness will give me an aneurysm, which I wholeheartedly welcome.

Crafting new ways for melodies while keeping their destructive nature, Absolute Destitute ravages through everything in its path. A rhythmic ride with melodic riffs sitting right behind makes this one fit in a spot that feels both different and similar to the rest.

The Great Dying Pt. 2 has the same flaw when it goes into Finish Them. The second part has a more eerie tone with a quiet background, focusing more on the monotoned voice speaking. Like the previous intermission and the introduction, for what it lacks, it does serve a purpose. It is a vital aspect of the overall message, so the wild screams and riff action don’t take away from the commentary of the state of our planet.

A short bludgeoning with a rhythmic force that might actually finish someone before listening to the rest of the album, it is that dangerous. While the music fits every song title, Finish Them feels even more suitable as it leads into a slaughterhouse. Headbanging worthy material throughout, but this is going to break my neck.

Shrieking and rocket speed that is the name of the game for With All Disrespect. During this storm of hellfire, there is a methodical approach to the madness, like all of the band’s celebrated, less constructed songs. The right moments are slowed down to not overpower with insanity but still manages to never stop going to the most extreme depths that the California natives can go.

The second-longest track, Time’s Cruel Curtain, has a different perspective lyrically and musically. A heavy yet somber beginning contradicts one another while having a pounding impact. This leads to a desolate landscape that returns to destruction. “We know that we’re wrong / We know what we’ve done / Yet we still carry on / The curtain has burned / No lessons are learned,” left me with hopelessness rather than anger, a trend that circles Death Atlas, unlike the band’s past furious nature.

The first smooth transition from the 12 track that goes straight into a depressing and blunt message. The Unerasable Past drapes itself in haunting sounds, a voice hidden in the background, and accompanied by a piano. This emotional pre-game before the finale pulls on my heartstrings with what it says and by the surprising low clean vocals that appear.

It seems Cattle concludes with another fierce attack to wipe out humanity, but this 9-minute title track has a trick up its sleeve. After preparation for the end of the world, a deep cut flexes the band’s creative muscles with those clean vocals combining with Ryan’s melodic screams and an atmospheric, moody end to this thought-provoking record.

Ryan proves himself to be my new favorite vocalist in extreme metal. He goes above and beyond what he has done before to deliver new horrifying animalistic noises that can only come from the deepest darkest places in his creative psyche.

The band’s position has always been about climate change while throwing in a song or two that tackles other subjects. This matches the last release, The Anthropocene Extinction when it comes to intelligent commentary on climate change maturely and violently. The eighth album rises to be the most hopeless in its perspective as we continue to spiral down to annihilation, which is so metal.

Death Atlas, at its high point, is superb heavy music that is both worthy of mosh pits and headbanging while taking the time to say something profoundly important. However, it underutilized its experimentation, wasting its full potential. That said, the mistakes made only knock off brief moments in this masterpiece.

Score: 9/10

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Album Review: Nile – Vile Nilotic Rites

Metal dives into some odd territory, especially from death metal legends Nile deliver a technical energy with an ancient Egyptian theme, despite being from South Carolina. Nine albums in seems impossible to continue delivering quality, yet the veterans of brutality have not failed in the slightest with Vile Nilotic Rites.

With a brief introduction, the first track Long Shadows Of Dread unleashes utter hell. This mid-tempo track hammers down to turn bone into dust with spikes of intense speedy riffs and drums that pound with heavy force to finish off Nile’s victims. To add to the atmosphere, bells boom in the background, leaving for a reminder of the grand scale that the band likes to employ with their focus on Egyptology.

Going into one of the most violent tracks, The Oxford Handbook Of Savage Genocidal Warfare, the title says it all. Men, women, children, and pets are not safe as singer/guitarist/mastermind Karl Sanders depicts this massacre. It is no mercy from the entire group as they enhance the bloodshed with their expertise in tech death.

The title track goes full death metal leaving little room for its thematic background. The effects in the distance are a nice touch, but the song should have leaned more into that element. Either way, the whirlwind of riffs and percussion make headbanging irresistible.

Seven Horns Of War is an epic nine minute adventure that opens up with so much depth like its light cymbals and beautifully sung wordless choir, this is truly the first time the group showcases the high production value spent on the record. Sanders takes a step back with slow, demonic vocal work and lets his guitar work along with George Kollias’ drumming, Brad Parris’ bass action, and Brian Kingsland’s accompanying guitar take the wheel. After a beating, it transitions through an epic bridge with a booming monologue, delightful piano playing, and the return of the choir. This is full of surprises and various levels for mind-boggling complexity on all fronts.

An eerie opening with a highly melodic riff with Kollias’ chiming in and out starts off That Which Is Forbidden. Low screams are at a distance before getting uncomfortably intimate. With some contrast, the fifth entry on the album mixes various styles without outdoing the heaviness.

Snake Pit Mating Frenzy says it all as this is a frenzy. The shortest song here and it makes that attack worth every second. Pure speed and complex technical skills is the name Nile have made for themselves, and this goes into that reputation heavily. Unlike Seven Horns Of War, while superb, the guitar sound feels too overpowering, so the sixth tracks fixes that by balancing the drums and guitars.

Carnage ensues with this melodic yet skull shattering heavy track. Revel In Their Suffering sits perfectly on the line of melody, violent, and thematically fitting with various effects to add extra layers.

Thus Sayeth The Parasites Of The Mind, takes a break from blowing my brains out with a transition featuring the band’s Middle Eastern interests. While it is a comfortable break, it does not lead itself well into the next track.

Where Is The Wrathful Sky starts with galloping drums at a distance and before I knew it, a percussive attack along with riffs that slice through flesh. The Southern Carolina natives meld their Egyptian inspirations with their American death metal style in flawless fashion.

Leading me into a false sense of security, the somber opening of The Imperishable Stars Are Sickened leaps into rapid riffs and explosive percussive power. The spaces in-between make for a harder punch that comes straight to the face. Being one of the longer songs, it does die down to travel back in time to Ancient Egypt, but that trip is cut short as I got ripped back into the modern world full of headbanging goodness along with newly added cleans that boom across the brutal screams.

The only way to end is with a sense of doom in this apocalyptic conclusion. We Are Cursed surrounds itself with death around every corner. Unlike other grander songs like Seven Horns Of War or The Imperishable Stars Are Sickened, this finale focuses on more straight death metal with its overall sound while keeping itself grounded in its themes with the lyrics.

Vile Nilotic Rites has a big presence, but at times felt not confident enough in some of its earlier songs. A better focus on contrast and thematic environments would have benefited the overall album. Even with flaws that caught my attention quickly, this is still golden work that satisfies my need for heavy music, experimental sounds, and brilliantly written lyrics.

The added bonus does come from the beautiful album artwork. Which should always be expected from the most extreme depths of metal.

Score: 8/10

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Album Review: Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind

Somehow wearing masks and having nine members works because Slipknot worked up the ranks to become the most prominent metal group in about 25 years. Mixing new found inspiration and going back to their roots, these Iowa natives crafted their best album to date, We Are Not Your Kind. This strange trip packs a punch in every sense of the word, the Knot has come back again, and they are taking back their throne.

Setting the ominous tone comes Insert Coin, a simple introduction into the band’s sixth album. Giving off 80s horror movie vibes creates a frightening mood for the rest of the album. Outside of the creepy noises and electronic background, the only lyric “I’m counting all the killers,” bookends the record as the final track Solway Firth has the same line, a perfect way for Corey Taylor to get across what he needs to say about a two year period of depression as a sober man.

Children can represent many things, one of which is something chilling. Unsainted takes that to a new level as it starts with a child choir that leads into a stripped-down chorus. The first single packs itself with vicious attacks during the verse and a scream-along chorus that rivals anything the nine members have created in the past.

Taylor compared this release to both Iowa and Vol. 3, and I see why the comparisons to their third effort got made with Birth of the Cruel. An anthemic piece that goes into unpredictable directions. This is the first piece of evidence that shows some of these songs transform from one beast to another.

One of the shortest tracks, Death Because of Death, might last just over a minute, but that does not take away the strength behind its punch. Tribal beats from the three percussionists and an electric backdrop set the tone. Taylor’s disturbing singing with equally haunting lyrics makes for an unsettling experience in an incredible way.

Nero Forte might hit closest to classic Slipknot while still feeling fresh. A hard-driving animal that is not the fastest, but undoubtedly rips anyone apart who gets in the way. Taylor shows off some of his fastest screams while his uncomfortably catchy clean vocals bring a balance of heaviness and melody.

Critical Darling kept me on my toes as it makes me never feel safe. The calm before the storm comes with Sid Wilson and Craig Jones laying out more electric magic before the rest of the group jumps in for a deceivingly heavy song. The pre-chorus builds up but not to an explosion, instead, it leads into one of the most beautifully melodic choruses in the band’s history. That build to something massive comes from an intimate bridge that dives into a heavy ending.

Transitioning from Critical Darling walks right into A Liar’s Funeral. An overall naked beginning with Jim Root’s softly playing guitar and Taylor giving out an emotional performance. Other members pop up for an aggressive chorus but mostly sit back until the epic climax as Taylor unleashes his agony in an impactful conclusion.

Taking it back to 2001 or 1999, Red Flag is one of the most violent, fastest, and heaviest songs to be found here. Old school thrash metal vibes sink in with the classic Knot aggression that put them on the map.

The only issue I have found comes from What’s Next, a filler track that does not transition into the next song. It would feel right if it could adequately blend into Spiders.

An introduction that should alert Michael Myers to the area quickly goes from Halloween to reminding me this is Slipknot. Catchy drumming from Jay Weinberg compliments Taylor’s equally catchy singing. Alessandro Venturella’s bass adds that extra thickness that felt needed for comfort while light guitar action sneaks in after the bassist. While everyone has a part to play, it is centered on Weinberg and Taylor for this weird atmospheric tune.

Distortion and pounding of drums begin Orphan, a heavy hitter that takes a while to get rolling, but when it does, it becomes relentless. The remarkable aspect of this track is not its ability to bash in heads; instead, it comes from a catchy chorus that retains that aggression.

A drawn-out introduction with spine-tingling whispers sets the tone for My Pain, a title that perfectly represents what I heard. Weinberg consistently tapping a cymbal, and Taylor’s intimate performance highlights this agony. A sense of danger similar to Critical Darling except for being one of the softest songs. While a lot of experiments were done, this is equally jaw-droppingly beautiful and unique.

Not Long for This World has an unconventional structure as it starts off reserved and quiet then takes a turn for something much more melodic and less haunting. The halfway mark takes another twist from the back and forth of its first verses and choruses as things get ferociously heavy. The chaos ensues into a dramatic conclusion.

Ending on a heavy note that matches the aggression from Red Flag or early material like People = Shit is Solway Firth, a complete bloodbath of raw emotion. Initially, I thought it felt wrong to end here, but knowing Taylor’s focus on his divorce makes this final track the perfect closer. An unrelenting attack that ends the conversation of the singer’s dramatic two-year depression.

Every member has plenty to offer unlike anything since Iowa, especially for Wilson and Jones who I always felt were underutilized in the past two releases. Bashing, yet technical percussive power from Weinberg, founding member Clown, and whoever ended up track the other side of drumming since Chris Fehn was booted. Meanwhile, Root and Mick Thomson slay it on guitar while tactically reeling themselves back on some songs like Spiders and A Liar’s Funeral.

Taylor delivers not only one of his best vocal performances with new techniques, but he has also written his best lyrics across every track. Tackling one subject made for the most powerful release in his career with the masked juggernaut.

Leading up to the release, I had a sour taste in my mouth as All Out Life, the first song that came out last year announcing the return of the mighty metalheads, would not be on the extensive tracklist. After listening, I realize it is best off since it would not fit the themes tackled here. Hopefully, a deluxe edition comes for the anthemic track to have a home.

We Are Not Your Kind stands has not only Slipknot’s best release, or even the best of the year, it stands above everything in over 15 years. It has one lousy spot with What’s Next, but with that 54-second bump out of 14 songs, I can hardly complain. A mix of old school Knot and many surprises shows the group is a force that nobody can takedown.

Score: 10/10

 

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Album Review: Carnifex – World War X

I cannot think of any metal band that has transformed like Carnifex. A mediocre deathcore band that had its influence over the genre that evolved into one of the best extreme groups around since their 2014 release Die Without Hope. Some bands take years to find what defines them, and these California boys have honed in on their skills to unleash an emotional monster that must be heard by all death metal and deathcore fans.

The title track should give a sense for the whole album, and World War X certainly does. Carnifex goes to all-out war in total darkness as Scott Ian Lewis takes a different viewpoint on depression and suicide, a subject that has become a staple in his lyrics. An unapologetically heavy opener that sets the tone for the eight other beasts that are waiting in their cages.

Visions of the End dives into the apocalypse head first. The most brutal and one of the most relentless tracks off of the seventh release from the metal veterans. A black metal inspired atmosphere lingers in the background. Every member has a specific moment to shine from Fred Calderon’s concussive bass playing to one of the many impressive solos from Jordan Lockrey.

Setting aside some of the depressing tones, This Infernal Darkness brings out the hate. Emphasizing the band’s skills at creating an atmosphere to complement their skull-crushing instrumentation as Shawn Cameron smashes his drums, the Lockrey, Calderon, and Cory Arford play violent riffs. By far the most epic sounding song that has a showcases the band’s grand production.

Taking a twist on the sound from Die Without Hope, Eyes of the Executioner mixes nostalgia and the evolved style that has been formed for World War X.

Alissa White-Gluz from Arch Enemy comes on for one of the best collaborations I have heard from a metal band in years. Instead of feeling phoned in, her cleans and screams is more collaborative. She brings a lot to No Light Shall Save Us that complements the rest of the band who already played out the groundwork for an essential track in their catalog. This is what the metal scene needs to step up, artists truly working together instead of some quick guest work that feels rushed.

Guitarist Angel Vivaldi hops onto All Roads Lead to Hell, a track that perfectly weaves surprising new sounds for the guitar work along with a vibe that blends Hell Chose Me and everything to come since that 2010 release. Melody and rhythm hold the sixth track above Carnifex standards while having one of the heaviest breakdowns in years.

Dragging my ears into hell, in the best way possible, Brushed by the Wings of Demons, relentlessly beats me down. The violent nature settles down for a methodical solo from Lockry before going back in for the kill.

Hail Hellfire matches Brushed by the Wings of Demons with a similar personality, while still pulling out some shocking sounds that I have never heard across any album from these deathcore experts. This song alone proves these self-taught musicians have come a long way from their 2007 debut, Dead in My Arms.

No big conclusion happens, By Shadows Thine Held emphasizes the stance of the album and delivers what is expected from modern Carnifex. While it might be a bit anti-climatic for an overall epic journey of extreme heaviness, this closer still stands tall.

Lewis’s continues to focus on mental health in a raw manner that gives an honest look into what depression looks like. It might be redundant after all of these years, but the vocalist continues to grow in his writing and vocal abilities to avoid overly reiterating his message. Lyrics aside, he will always be one of the strongest vocalists in metal.

World War X defied my expectations with its many surprises. It beats out the already masterfully crafted Slow Death while still not beating out Die Without Hope, which will likely stay as my favorite album due to it selling me on the band in the first place. The seventh album is a masterpiece with nonstop hits.

Score: 10/10

Buy the album: World War X

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