Review Summary: Still crushing, still evolving.
For anyone who’s been listening to Carnifex since the Dead in My Arms
days, it’s crazy how much they’ve evolved over the years. Back in 2007, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t lump them in with either Suicide Silence or Job for a Cowboy… or basically any big deathcore band from the Myspace era. But the way the first wave of deathcore splintered off into so many offshoots is fascinating in and of itself. Job for a Cowboy now makes progressive death metal in the vein of The Faceless or Rivers of Nihil, while Suicide Silence spent their last album making “TEE-HEE”-ridden nu-metal rip-offs. Meanwhile, you have bands like Shadow of Intent bringing more credibility to the genre than ever. But Carnifex is in a bit of an interesting place as far as the deathcore scene goes.
They’re probably one of the most well-respected deathcore bands around, mostly because they’ve had such a notable evolution over the years. As every album passed, there was more of an emphasis on black metal and traditional death metal elements rather than the pure deathcore they were once known for. Sure, the deathcore is still there, but I often find that the more they stray from that genre, the better they get. So here we are at World War X
, another suitably punishing and brutal effort that also experiments with a lot of the same textures and dark atmospheres that permeate the band’s later work. Not only does the finished product sound hellish and uncompromising throughout its 35-minute run, but the vibe is also incredibly depressing and hopeless as well.
For instance, you have the beautiful classical piano sections in “This Infernal Darkness,” which manage to be both unsettling and downcast at the same time. They provide a perfect contrast to the heavy riffs, which is something I can also say about Alyssa White-Gluz’s clean vocals that are scattered about “No Light Shall Save Us.” There’s something apocalyptic about the way her singing is combined with the throat-shredding growls of Scott Lewis; mix that in with some doomy melodies and chugging, and it’s all very effective in sucking you into its unique world. In general though, the melodic moments have just gotten much better than before. “Brushed by the Wings of Demons” boasts a beautiful Anata-esque harmonized guitar solo in the midst of its crushing death metal, while guest guitarist Angel Vivaldi brings a nice neoclassical touch to “All Roads Lead to Hell.”
Of course, the metal itself is still just as chaotic and intense as ever. But every album boasts more of a technical slant than the previous one, and World War X
is no exception. Jordan Lockrey’s lead guitar work is getting more and more intricate - especially in regards to his solos - and Shawn Cameron continues to incorporate more elaborate tricks into his drumming. This is probably the largest amount of tempo shifts he’s ever had to plow through on a Carnifex album, and he’s absolutely up to the task. On “Eyes of the Executioner,” the musicians are called upon to switch tempos and moods almost constantly, such as immediately switching from a breakdown to an onslaught of blastbeat-ridden black metal riffs. Stuff like that is great when it comes to adding more variety into the mix. “All Roads to Hell” also taps into this nicely by getting faster and faster with every few measures to constantly ratchet up the tension before finally resorting to blast beats and thrash riffs to make their point.
However, the one downside here is that there’s still not quite
enough innovation here to mark the album as a huge step forward. There’s a temptation to label the album as “just another Carnifex record” despite the abundance of great music we’ve got here. Plus, the lyrics - while dark and suitably creepy - are starting to get a bit tired and played out by this point. They fit the atmosphere, yes, but a little more effort thrown into the imagery and themes wouldn’t hurt. But hey, at least it’s better than the near-constant stream of F-bombs we were greeted with on 2014’s Die Without Hope
! So I suppose that’s a good thing. Anyway, I do highly recommend World War X
. Is it a huge leap forward in terms of stylistic innovation? No. But it’s just an incredibly solid slab of death metal that implements its deathcore and black metal elements in all the right places. And when you get down to it, these guys are still leaving about 90% of their deathcore contemporaries in the dust, so you enjoy the genre, you shouldn’t be disappointed in any way by this record.