Review Summary: Impending Doom's heaviest and strongest album yet.
Self-proclaimed purveyors of ‘gorship’ Impending Doom have always been a beacon of hope in a genre cluttered with unimaginative breakdown addicts and bass drops so dense they're in danger of setting off the Los Angeles fault line. Don’t misunderstand, though. Impending Doom were still guilty of all the trappings that deathcore brought with it. The difference is that they at least tried to get creative with it. Yeah, songs like ‘Murderer’ were a bit on the nose at times, but songs like ‘Peace Illusion’, ‘My Light Unseen’ and ‘Death. Ascension. Resurrection.’ demonstrated that they had the ability to compose engaging songs that resonated with the listener, and this has translated into their new (and best) LP, ‘Death Will Reign’.
Right from the off, Impending Doom make it clear that ‘Death Will Reign’ is absolutely feral; a much heavier album than any of their past works. Opener ‘Ravenous Disease’ assaults the listener with an cannibalistic rage, heavier and thicker than rotten custard that’s been mixed with concrete. The title track continues beating you around the head with your own spine and third track, ‘Beyond the Grave’, ups the intensity again. The only image that comes close to imparting just how overwhelming the experience is that it’s like being locked in a phone booth with a maternally outraged gorilla.
Don’t worry, though, it’s not merely breakdowns and blast beats. ‘My Own Maker’ is a really interesting track that starts off with a breakdown accented by symphonic elements which quickly shift into a bouncy djent riff reminiscent of Northlane’s ‘Dispossession’. Rather than go track by track, suffice to say that the rest of the album is as heavy and as subtle as a ten-ton hammer to the rectum, but ‘My Own Maker’ is a standout among an album of standouts.
The band members themselves are in career best form, too. Drummer Brandon Trahan is fast, technical and absolutely watertight. Bassist David Stiig adds a crushing low end to the mix. In a genre where bass guitarists are theoretical at best, his is the crucial job of filling out the mix to its full density, and guitarists Manny Contreras and Eric Correa are freaks. They’re brilliantly technical (see ‘My Own Maker’) and blindingly fast. They also know when to hold back on the technical speed metal if the song will suffer for it (see 'Hellhole').
However, the MVP award goes to frontman Brook Reeves. You would be forgiven for assuming that they’ve acquired a new vocalist since 'Baptised in Filth'. His vocals have improved one hundred fold, putting him in serous contention for the best harsh vocalist in metal. His lyrical content is also a refreshing departure from the standard deathcore lines of zombie nuns fornicating with demons while misogynistic serial killers commit unspeakable atrocities. For example, ‘My Blood’ revolves around the love he feels for his wife and son, and ‘Rip. Tear. Burn.’ is a condemnation of the growing secular/nihilist culture in modern metal.
There are negatives here, however. In essence, while it’s a very diverse album, for deathcore, there’s always going to be that footnote of ‘for deathcore’. It’s still full of breakdowns, blast beats, bass drops and everything else we’ve all come to loathe from this genre. ‘Death Will Reign’ is undeniably eschewing its deathcore roots and encroaching further onto death metal territory than ever before, but it still retains vestiges of its origins that hold it back from being something truly special.
Ultimately, however, ‘Death Will Reign’ has far more virtues than it has sins, and it's arguably the best deathcore album in recent memory. It’s diverse, it’s engaging and it’s unbelievably heavy from start to finish. Frankly, that’s its biggest asset. It’s so thick that you could wear it like a second skin. It absorbs you in its disgusting embrace and ravages you from the word go. Unlike other deathcore albums, however, you won’t just enjoy it, you’ll beg for more, and ‘Death Will Reign’ will be only too happy to oblige.