Review Summary: There’s a consistency in Carnifex’s output that’s admirable, and Graveside Confessions is yet another feather in their cap.
Back in a 2010 interview with Noisecreep, when asked about being part of the deathcore scene, Carnifex vocalist Scott Lewis stated: "We're not one of those bands trying to escape the banner of deathcore. I know a lot of bands try and act like they have a big problem with that, but if you listen to their music, they are very 'deathcore.'” And that mentality has been incredibly important to the Carnifex sound over the years. Many bands have tried to escape deathcore’s large, infamous shadow to seek what a large constituent of the metal scene would consider more “respectable” genres of extreme music. Just think back to Job for a Cowboy’s eventual transformation into a progressive death metal act with Sun Eater
, or Whitechapel’s excursion into more experimental territory with 2019’s The Valley
. But Carnifex are a bit different. While they’ve added a nice helping of black metal influence and a menacing atmosphere to their music over the years, there’s something to be said for a group that stays in the same genre and tries to perfect it as much as they can.
With Graveside Confessions
, this trend most certainly continues. While the lack of Jordan Lockrey’s solos continues to be felt, Cory Arford’s relatively diverse guitar leads fill in the cracks nicely. Something that immediately stands out about this record compared to past Carnifex albums is that the transitions are starting to become much smoother, whether it be the seamless fusion of melodic and groovy segments that make up “Carry Us Away” or the way the beautifully melancholic instrumental “January Nights” is followed up perfectly by the furious aggression of “Cemetery Wander”. The black metal elements are also on full display on Graveside Confessions
, and they remain a welcome presence. “Countess of Perpetual Torment” (which already sounds like a Cradle of Filth song title as it is) is probably the biggest example of such, even combining its tremolo guitar riffs with a nice backdrop of symphonic keyboards to increase the spookiness factor.
But again, the band still haven’t strayed away from the beaten deathcore path they’ve trodden since their inception; instead, it’s all about the little tweaks they’ve made to their sound over time. Even the breakdowns themselves have become much more creative; while the end of “Cursed” sports a pretty simple chug, the strange out-of-tune guitar lead in the background immediately provides a more intriguing and haunted feel to the outro as a whole. Then you have “Talk to the Dead”, which has a recurring melodic riff that’s presented in different ways throughout the tune. It starts out in a black metal-influenced tremolo-picked manner, only for Arford to eventually fashion a harmonized guitar outro with the same melody. Little bits of diversity like this are what often separate Carnifex from the deathcore pack, and perhaps the best song to represent this would be the instrumental track “January Nights”. It’s worth noting that the band have already done a song like this before, with “Dead in My Eyes” and “Life Fades to a Funeral” immediately coming to mind. However, “January Nights” is like the culmination of their efforts with those tracks; this is the first time they’ve attempted a full-length non-interlude piece in this style, and it’s a fantastic way to break up the aggression the rest of the album exhibits.
Still, not all is perfect. I’m a bit baffled as to why the re-recorded songs weren’t just released as bonus tracks. Sure, it’s cool to hear these old Carnifex songs in a new light - and with better production, of course - just to see how far they’ve come. However, if you’re trying to listen to Graveside Confessions
from front to back, just be aware that this one’s much more of a time sink than the band’s previous records because of these re-recorded cuts. Also, as is the case with just about every Carnifex album, the lyrics are still pretty damn shaky. Random f-bombs are still scattered about to remove the listener from a given song’s atmosphere, and stuff like “One of these souls has a shelf life/that fucker wanted me dead by 25/and every day since I’ve been restless/I know it’s just a matter of time” (from “Seven Souls”) is just as cringy as it’s ever been. Unfortunately, given the lack of progression found in the quality of Carnifex’s lyrics, I somehow doubt they’ll get much better in the future.
Regardless, Graveside Confessions
stands as one of the band’s best works to date alongside Slow Death
and Until I Feel Nothing
. I feel as though they’ve finally settled into a pattern now, in the sense that you usually know what you’re going to get with a Carnifex record but it’s guaranteed to be a cut above your average deathcore act. They know what they’re about, and they’ll continue to strive for the best version of themselves with each passing release. Much like Cannibal Corpse before them, there’s a consistency in Carnifex’s output that’s admirable whether you enjoy their work or not; their brand is a reliable seal of quality, and Graveside Confessions
is yet another feather in their cap.