Review Summary: Down a slope, up a mountain.
When I reviewed Cabal’s debut full-length, Mark Of Rot
a couple of years ago, I had some pretty mixed feelings on how this Danish death metal band would take their amalgamation of sounds and build on it; and thus, take it to the next level. Consider my surprise when Drag Me Down
rather simplified the band’s output of blackened deathcore meets traditional death metal and moments of djent-y riffs and produced an album that’s not only better
than the debut, but stands well above it. Drag Me Down
is a cohesive, well-thought and thoroughly enjoyable slab of metal in spite of the disjointed issues that plagued Cabal’s first worldwide unveiling. In having the group’s debut as a direct comparison point it’s easy to see how Drag Me Down
is such a worthy successor to the former incoherence that restrained the debut - not because it pushes boundaries, but rather, has shown the band’s identity as it should
The record opens in typical fashion. “Gift Givers” is a meaty slab of balls to the wall intensity. After a quick sample of industrialist noise gruff growls punch through a hammer-blow off thick riffs and fierce percussion. The mood is set quickly, promoting a world of raging cacophony. At each turn Cabal’s newest offers a focused streamlining of the debut that came before it. But it’s the album’s third track which offers the most potential. “It Haunts Me (feat. Kim Song Sternkopf)” is fierce down to the core, but builds off the atmosphere that lays waiting under the riffs and caustic screams. Even the use of orchestral staccato as the band reaches for that ever-present use of a breakdown sees the “normal” become just that little “more”.
As I continue with this train of thought; it’s hard to avoid the album’s extended rostering. Cabal’s newest offering is chock full of features pulled from the modern relevance of today’s metal scene. This time around, cuts like the djent-y, titular “Drag Me Down”, which features Australian screamer, Jamie Hails of Polaris fame and “Bitter Friend” (which showcases Trivium’s Matt Heafy) add diverse, yet completely sensible changes to the band’s levels of heaviness. In having to modify the track’s respective styles, the listener benefits from seeing the same face of a coin from different angles. And while the album may have [more than] its fair share of a-typical, borderline cliche genre tropes, it’s the subtle, yet clear increased levels of diversity that carry the listener from beginning to end. Matt Heafy’s contributions on “Bitter Friend” are of particular note; while the man himself may have been constantly developing his vocal style (see; Ascendancy
to The Crusade
and Silence In The Snow
) his efforts here define the back end of this particular track with some of his best screams to date (no hyperbole).
The changes in the band’s sound may not be instantly clear on paper, but the sophomore is dramatically better than the debut. And yet, Cabal’s potential hasn’t been fully achieved here. Overall, Drag Me Down
is a more than enjoyable foray into the world of deathcore, keeping its roots into the soundscapes that has defined death metal over the course of the last thirty or so years while bringing in some really modern twists to bolster their sound. It’s not perfect, but it’s a worthy addition for a group looking to build on their foundations and more importantly, learn from them. Cabal have had the easy run down a slope, now it's time for the hard slog up the face of the mountain.