Review Summary: You are not welcome here.
And yet here you are. Welcome to one of the most unwelcoming albums of 2021. Succumb is a four piece from San Francisco whose sound is as hostile and unnerving as an army of Black Friday goons storming a Walmart on Friday after pulling an all-nighter high on Monster and cocaine. Effervescent death metal with layers of caustic hardcore and abrasive grindcore topped with an ounce of tech/dissonance is their receipt, and XXI
is, you got that right, their second album. I can't honestly fathom how The Flenser dares to release that sweet, sweet, Midwife album and just months later they unleash something like this album. Have some mercy, man. "Succumb.... huh, oh yeah, sounds dark and... ethereal, must be chill like that Luminol record I got a couple of months back. You know what? you coming home, honey..."
were the last words of the last poor soul who had just completed his Planning For Burial catalogue and was looking to expand
on the label’s material. Well, guess what, motherfucker: You just got headbutt’d to oblivion and back by a thousand pounds colossus the moment the needle dropped on the record. It was all over the news, he was never heard of. Ever. Again.
Such are the perils of old school, blind vinyl collecting, folks. Indeed, "Lilim" blasts its way out like a tortured spirit who has just been liberated from its former spiritual enthrallment and now runs amok among the living. And there goes "Maenad", which is not better, but the same kind of brain squeezing virulence, only longer, and so on.
But behold! Because the band fronted by the murderous looks of Cheri Musrasrik is not just the senseless chaos you are trying to portrait in your head. In addition to Cheri's elaborated lyricism, which revolves around Greek mythology, the works of Yeats, Genet and Zola or even Arthurian literature applied to contemporary horrors, Succumb actually show admirable control over the convulsive nature of their craft. Nothing is accidental in XXI
, and everything has a reason, it just happens so fucking fast that I pity the fool that tries to follow up close. You may recognize those drum chops from the man behind the kit in Bosse-de-Nage, Mr. Harry Cantwell, who displays here the same mad technique and serves as the engine for Derek Webster's impossible riffing and Kirk Spaseff's shattering bass lines (and growls!).
Produced by Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Oathbreaker, etc.), XXI
is an absolute beast of a record, too hard to tame at times, truth be told, but one that undoubtedly leaves a mark. As far as highlights go, I already mentioned that one minute-plus slap in the face that is "Lilim"; I just love when an album of this caliber starts with a short burst and then unloads the rest like lava down a volcano. Lead single "Okeanos" is probably equipped with one of the best riffs of the album and it also shows the band hardcore leans in depth, while "Soma" showcases what Cantwell is able to do behind the kit. Finally, the closer, "8 Trigrams" is a labyrinthic seven minutes and a half marathon of blackened death metal that, if your head still stands over your shoulders, it won’t be long until it melts to a pulp of blood and grey matter.
Exhaustive business, that one of Succumb, no doubt. Cheri Musrasrik's ghostly and rabid delivery is strangely captivating, while at the same time completely terrifying. Her voice appears shrouded in static, like a cacophony spitting her tribulations with the unknown from the netherworld like sulphuric acid. And her bandmates? They don't have time for melodic matters either, nope. Succumb's instrumental prowess is unrelenting, devoid of conventional notes, transitions or whatever musical theory you can muster. Strings are not picked, they are ravaged, and drums are not hit, but massacred. You are simply not welcome in XXI
, and yet you will return to it once and again, like a moth drawn to a flame, trying to embrace and become one with the miasmic wall of sound. But let me tell you: you will fail, and Succumb knows, and they will be there to devour your sanity like a vulture feasts on the dead... But anyway, that's a story for another record. For now, let's see how you deal with this abomination. I sure managed, to my own surprise, but these days I'm in such a cadaveric mood...