Review Summary: Sub 90 BPM slam riffs have never been groovier. Bound in Fear is Bound to get your head moving, and they fill the Black Tongue shaped whole in the UK beatdown scene perfectly.
In an age where Deathcore becomes more and more enamoured with the "Death" at the behest of the "Core" and genre descriptions seem to be a battle of just how many prefixes one can fit before the main genre, to have a band that takes the time to perfect its formula is practically groundbreaking. That is exactly what UK’s bound in fear do on their third offering, Eternal.
In 2020, deathcore is no stranger to the Doom, Slam or Hardcore influences present on Eternal. The late 2010’s came swinging with the monolithically heavy subgenre Downtempo, springing out of the Deep South and North England, spearheaded by Black Tongue and Traitors and followed by scores of copycat bands looking for a slice of that sub 90 bpm cake, such as Bound in Fear and Left to Suffer. Downtempo was a genre that was entirely unafraid of utilising a song as essentially just a vehicle for a nasty breakdown, but that formula soon became boring, and bands have started to unfurl their artistic wings to find ways of composing interesting songs.
But where Left to Suffer leave us (to suffer?) for digestible Nu Metal influences that will likely land them a spot at the next Knotfest, Black Tongue largely leaves the hardcore behind to fuse Funeral Doom with Blackened Deathcore in arguably the best anglicised take on Thall to date and Traitors gets bogged down in figuring out how few snare hits they can fit in a minute of silence while still preserving the audiences sense of tempo, Bound in Fear holds the banner of Downtempo high by perfecting their brand of groovy downtuned slam on Eternal.
The toolbox present on Eternal is largely the same as The Hand of Violence’s, but where too much of a good thing became boring on that record, Eternal gives us not just a shorter collection of songs, but offers plain and simple better songwriting. Not only are the riffs plain and simple good riffs, with little rhythmic flourishes backed up by A-tier drum writing, but Bound in Fear avoids creating the same riff salad present on many peers records by recontextualising their riffs with new tempos and drum parts, as they do on Left to Drown. Eternal also avoids getting lost in atmosphere in quite the same way the Hand of Violence did by using the lofi creepy arpeggiation and leads that have practically become a cliche in Deathcore by now, as much more of a compositional tool than a space filler. The breakdowns are also much stronger, with each one having a distinct personality and being recognisable, My Mind, My Prison’s bow-wows and bends contrast greatly with Everblack’s ever descending and slowing atmospheric chugfest, that sees Ben Mason reaching inhumanly low with his false chord growls.
But Bound in Fear are not afraid to reach out of their comfort zone on Eternal, Everblack features a part reminiscent of Vildhjartas thally goodness just before its breakdown and The Harrowing’s second riff would not be out of place in the early Chelsea Grin discography.
It would however, be impossible to talk about Bound in Fear without talking about vocalist Ben Mason, who adds a tortured tunnel throat wail and CJ McMahon-esque roar to his repertoire of Slam adjacent false cord lows and Matthew Honeycutt-like yells. Masons rhythmic choices and delivery are incredibly well considered and add so much more to the songs than the usual riff-following of other bands in the genre. To add to this, the lyrical content has also increased in considerable measure, where The Hand of Violence pursued the same themes as Bodysnatcher’s "I have daddy issues" (or as it is officially know, This Heavy Void), Eternal instead takes a much colder approach, focusing on mental health issues, which isnt groundbreaking, but certainly an improvement.
At this point you may be thinking, "so its a good EP, but why a 5?". That, my dear friend, is because I genuinely think this EP is a turning point, not just for Bound in Fear, but for Downtempo as a whole. Not only do I expect Bound in Fear to be propelled to the top of the Downtempo charts by this EP, but I think it will leave in its wake a very different Downtempo than the spaced out chugs we’ve come to expect, with bands sure to be copying this EP and the blueprint it lays for years.