Review Summary: A Deviation from Conventional Territory
Carnifex is not your generic deathcore band. While financial troubles and a sluggish record label created numerous obstacles for them in the past, they have steadily been evolving by infusing melodic and even some classically influenced technicality into their music. These have been innovations for a band that has tried to get out of the binding and encapsulating claws of deathcore. Rising above the crowd is a challenge however recently the band has put strenuous effort into differentiating itself from this plummeting scene. The band’s 2008 release “The Diseased and the Poisoned” was a dull and dreadful listen which quickly outstayed its welcome from the ridiculous breakdowns and endless chugging. However two years later Carnifex create “Hell Chose Me” alongside a diabolical artwork that does an excellent job in foreshadowing the mayhem to come.
The title track is a strong opener showing vast improvement whilst providing the sensation of being drowned in a miserable and dark world. The vocals from Scott Lewis are absolutely ghastly carrying a terrifying and truly sinister effect that is reinforced by the bone crushing drum kicks. There is often a symbiotic relationship between the guitars and drums which leaves vocals in a unique category. However here an eerie effect is created with the suitably gargled lows and the backing from the splintering drum kicks, whilst his highs mix well with the guitarists’ impeccable articulation even during their unconventional rhythmical deviations. The musicians definitely pushed themselves and mostly succeed in sounding different in comparison to other deathcore bands.
The atmosphere is appropriately hellish and violent with songs “Dead Archetype” and “Entombed Monarch” boasting incredibly fast yet melodic technicality. The punk elements and chugging are disappointingly present but thankfully not abused like in previous releases. The chaos that the guitarists create is appropriately harnessed which is astonishingly mature in a genre notorious for embellishment.
There is a noticeably progressive feel in “Hell Chose Me” due to the fact that the musicians lose themselves in incredible technicality amidst a force of callous speed. This is supported by the thundering blast beats and while the band’s talent was questionable in their last two albums, this time there isn’t much ambiguity since the band’s potential shines most of the time. Guitarist Cory Arford, is a standout with his skill in blending and balancing varied notes and chords with powerful intonation and speed all during a single measure. His vast knowledge of music and influences from technical and even thrash metal is commendable and simply remarkable.
Unfortunately these improvements aren’t enough to make “Hell Chose Me” a truly spectacular album. There aren’t any weak tracks since each song boasts incredible structure and the renewed vigor helps make the album still feel a bit fresh to this day. One issue that seems to be a reoccurring theme within deathcore in general is that songs in albums blend in rather too much. This unfortunately has been a blunder in the band’s previous albums too. Carnifex also drags along the unwanted, mundane, and unnecessary breakdowns which is incredibly frustrating. There is simply no need for them and most of the time they act as filler rather than being essential in a passage or key moment.
This band is cable of producing a flabbergasting effect, through its cohesion and willingness to shy away from monotony by incorporating various styles from multiple genres. However it teases this in “Hell Chose Me” instead of fearlessly crossing the line and going for a completely different style such as the melodic death metal band “Through the Eyes of the Dead”. Conversely in later releases “Until I Feel Nothing” (2011) and “Die without Hope” (2014), Carnifex shies away from the past and courageously evolves into a hybrid of death metal with some of deathcore’s reputable influences. Carnifex’s “Hell Chose Me” is like Whitechapel’s “This is Exile” where they begin to lay a foundation and attempt to leave from a comfortable territory that paradoxically tries to choke them out of ingenuity. This is a transition album where the band for the first time finds a strength in the unconventional. Thankfully, this has recently made them more successful and considerably stronger so this album can be understood as a meaningful addition to their discography, rather than just another routine deathcore release.