Review Summary: A little bit of Neverbloom, a touch of "Let Me In", and a whole lot of awesome.
It couldn’t have been totally surprising to see the backlash from some fans when Make Them Suffer dropped the single “Let Me In” last year. The track was a noticeable, if not night and day, departure from the flashy symphonic deathcore that was Neverbloom
and Lord of Woe
before it. Instead of rampaging blast beats, there were simplified riffs and a greater emphasis on melody. Some greeted the shift with open arms, but others worried about what it would bring when album number two rolled around. Well, now that it’s arrived, it’s clear to see that Make Them Suffer have balanced Old Souls
between the sound they started with and the direction of “Let Me In”. While it’s not surprising that the new sounds were explored, it is a pleasant surprise to see how well it works out for them.
Intro “Foreward” and follow up “Requiem” begin the record in a fashion not altogether alien to Neverbloom
. The former mostly serves as a symphonic introduction to the album, rather than a full track, but it is a bit more fleshed out than its counterpart on the previous album. Requiem
by comparison is like throwing a bone to the audience that brought the band into the spotlight, with death metal riffs, blasting beats, and balls to the wall breakdowns. While other tracks like “Threads” also keep the Neverbloom
sound alive, it’s the newly trodden musical ground that really impresses. “Let Me In”, despite its history, is the best incarnation of this sound by far. The melodic passages are a welcome reprieve from the aggressive attitudes Make Them Suffer usually peddle, and the clean singing from keyboardist Louisa Burton absolutely soars. Elsewhere, album closer, and title track, “Old Souls” is almost punky in some of its pacing, but full to the brim with emotional energy rarely, if ever, found in deathcore. The vast majority of the tracks impress, but there are a few duds (“Fake”, and “Blood Moon”) that chug their way to nothingness. Both tracks are bland and uninspired enough to make the album feel just a bit inconsistent overall.
While there’s not much wrong with the band instrumentally, absenting a bit of emphasis on bland breakdowns at times, it’s the vocal performance that truly stands out. Sean Harmanis absolutely destroys with his scathing vocals. Both high screams and guttural growls are present, and performed extremely well, along with a newly implemented mid-range that he prefers to utilize on the more melodic tracks. It’s a rare thing to find a vocalist in deathcore that brings emotion, variation, and both intelligible and well written lyrics to the table. The album is less conceptually themed than Neverbloom
, but that’s been traded for more personal and tragic storytelling that works just as well. The aforementioned Louisa Burton’s singing is far more present than the occasional background detail she was relegated to on past releases, and adds just that much more color to Make Them Suffer’s palette. Her symphonic arrangements have likewise evolved further, with quite a few memorable piano melodies to be found.
With Old Souls
, Make Them Suffer have harmonized the two sides of their sound in a fairly cohesive package. While some tracks crack the façade, their melodic side impresses enough that maybe, just maybe, fans will be clamoring for an expansion of that aspect rather than a continuation of Neverbloom
. In any case, it at least proves that Make Them Suffer aren’t afraid to expand their sound, and that adventurous attitude at such an early stage in their career has got to earn them something. It simply remains to see what that turns out to be.