Review Summary: If there is a rock in deathcore, everlasting and stubborn almost to a fault, it's Carnifex.
At this point Carnifex is probably the last of the original deathcore pack still stubbornly waving the flag for the old traditions. Job For A Cowboy jumped ship for progressive death metal a couple of years back, Whitechapel is busy trying to carve a unique niche for themselves but simultaneously stuck burying it in insipid songwriting, Suicide Silence is floundering in regression, and the rest are somewhere in the middle. It seems like nine of every ten new outfits to pop up identify more with the sludgy downtempo wave a la Black Tongue than the guys that spearheaded the genre. So it’s refreshing that every time Carnifex drops a new record you can safely rely on it for some tried and true old fashioned deathcore (albeit with the right amount of modern flavor to avoid sounding dated). You can liken them to your Amon Amarths, your Killswitch Engages, your Lamb of Gods, etc. But the difference is that there’s still been a clear progression between records for Carnifex. Sure, they continuously refine their sound, but there’s always a couple new tricks in the bag. So it is with Slow Death
, the opus that both solidifies what deathcore originally aspired to be and advances it victoriously forward.
The opening salvo of “Dark Heart Ceremony” immediately demonstrates what Carnifex took from their last LP, Die Without Hope
, to develop further here. After a drawn out atmospheric intro, all moody keys and build up, Carnifex switches to high gear with dismal tremolos, runaway train riffing, and the cinderblock heavy breakdowns we expect from them. While we’re used to the band’s unrestrained aggression, their newfound adoration for keyboards and orchestrations is fairly new, mostly an afterthought on Die Without Hope
. Here it adds a thick layer of ominous ambience over the record that suits their grim aesthetic. It’s been fairly amusing to see people refer to Carnifex as “blackened deathcore” for a few albums now since they never really had more than a few mild characteristics of black metal, but this is the first time it almost felt justified. To be clear, it’s nowhere near a full-fledged fusion of black metal and deathcore, but there is a hint of that darkness to some of these riffs and the keys are ripped straight from Dimmu Borgir or Cradle of Filth. Furthermore, those hints of melody Carnifex played with on Die Without Hope
return here with an abundance of catchy yet tonally fitting solos (some of which call to mind the likes of The Black Dahlia Murder) and another stripped down interlude mostly made up of clean guitars and noodling leads.
The first half of the record is the stronger of the two, the opening trio of “Dark Heart Ceremony”, “Slow Death”, and “Drown Me In Blood” coming out particularly invigorating, but the back half doesn’t falter too much. Chiefly, the slack is thanks to “Six Feet Closer To Hell” coming up just a tad short next to the bread and butter of Slow Death
. It’s not bad by any means, it certainly has standout instrumental sections and pleasant lead work, but Scott Lewis’ vocals are awkwardly phrased and pushed forward in the mix so they’re impossible to ignore. Otherwise Lewis is the same demon behind the mic he has been for most of Carnifex’s career, consistently pushing out tremendously powerful gutturals and increasingly vicious highs, interspaced with moments in which he experiments a bit with his middle range.
is more consistent than its predecessor, there’s nothing at the depths of “Rotten Souls” for one. However, there also isn’t a highlight quite like “Where The Light Dies” so it clearly feels like it’s missing a certain star track that keeps it from rising as much above Die Without Hope
as it should. All the same, Slow Death
is a blast happy slab of symphonically tinged deathcore that knows when to groove and when to barrel ahead rampantly. It’s probably not going to be the revelation deathcore naysayers aren’t looking for anyway, but it’s a satisfying balancing act of softly integrated progression and traditional brutality.