At last the wait is finally over. When Carnifex dropped the news that they’d be releasing a new album that, according to vocalist Scott Lewis, was going to “reshape our genre and be looked back on as an album that started a new movement for aggressive, dark metal”, the metal community collectively sat up and took notice. The band had started incorporating a few black metal influences into their deathcore palette on their post-hiatus comeback Die Without Hope, but the news that they would be heading further down that route was exciting to say the least. The three singles that they release (“Drown Me In Blood”, “Six Feet Closer To Hell” and “Slow Death”) showed that they weren’t just talking a big game but were actually delivering the goods. And now that the whole album has arrived we can finally determine if all the hype was justified.
The answer? The hype was more than justified on this release. As a genre, deathcore has always been lacking a bold album that truly throws down the gauntlet- an album that stands head and shoulders above the pack and revolutionizes the game. What Carnifex have done on Slow Death is broaden deathcore’s scope, and have done so without compromising on quality or even the core tenets of deathcore. By introducing elements commonly found in black metal, Carnifex have carved an exciting niche for themselves that has really helped them stand apart from the pack- as well as create their strongest collection of songs to date.
Although every track is built on the same premise, Carnifex deliver their template to a consistently high standard. Most of the tracks are built upon their strong sense of rhythm- evident in the way that guitarist Cory Arford, bassist Fred Calderon and drummer Shawn Cameron create grooves that compel the listener to bounce, headbang or mosh fervently. Upon this solid foundation the band flirt with plenty of black metal style melodies through either keys, orchestration or Jordan Lockrey’s stellar lead work. In truth, when the band stated that they would be experimenting with black metal, its worth noting that the specific strand of black metal their referencing is more akin to Dimmu Borgir and Cradle Of Filth, rather than say Darkthrone. These influences really come to the fore, and are most noticeable, on tracks such as opener “Dark Heart Ceremony”, “Black Candles Burning” and “Countess Of The Crescent Moon”.
That’s not to say that Carnifex have completely disregarded their earlier works, and there are plenty of moments that hark back to Die Without Hope, Until I Feel Nothing or Hell Chose Me. “Pale Ghost” utilises Die Without Hope‘s blend of furious death metal riffs, huge breakdowns and djent-infused grooves with the newly found piano melodies, whilst “Necrotoxic” feels like it could have seamlessly fitted into Hell Chose Me, albeit with a greater emphasis on a foreboding atmosphere. The only ‘unusual’ song on Slow Death is the sole instrumental track on the album, “Life Fades To A Funeral”, which provides a moment of respite from brutal onslaught the band have wrought on the previous seven tracks. The track fades in on clean picked guitars that convey gorgeous yet sorrowful melodies, before being layered with reverb-drenched blues licks and sharp accents- a perfect introduction for the dark grandeur of the album’s closing duo of “Countess Of The Crescent Moon” an “Servants To The Horde”.
The two best performers on this album are undoubtedly vocalist Scott Lewis and lead guitarist Jordan Lockrey. Although he tends to stick with mid-range growls, with a few guttural roars and high shrieks mixed in, Scott’s real strength is in the lyrics. The bleak, nihilistic images he conjures really suits the music that the band have worked hard to craft, and the album as an experience becomes a lot more immersive (also the lyric “Die Without Hope got stuck inside my head” is the most relatable thing any band has ever said). The album also showcases the blistering fretwork of Jordan Lockrey. Whilst he might not have had much of an opportunity on Die Without Hope, here Jordan is allowed to show off his technical chops. His solos range from considered and restrained melodies through to a flurry of notes, yet they are executed with careful regards context of the song- none of his solos feel forced and in a few instances really enhances the songs.
Slow Death is surely a career highlight for a band that has been around for just over a decade- but I don’t think this is their peak. If anything, Slow Death feels like a stepping stone to launch a new chapter of the band with a new identity, and an exciting one at that. I personally would really encourage them to continue with their exploration of black metal which has invigorated their sound- perhaps the next step from here is to go boldly where other black metal forefathers, such as Emperor, Satyricon and Thorns, have gone and seek new sounds and influences. Black metal is such a broad term for a whole host of sounds nowadays, that there are infinite possibilities where Carnifex could take their dark sounds.
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