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In a press release sent out by Nuclear Blast Records, Carnifex stated that ‘Slow Death’ would, “reshape our genre and be looked back on as an album that started a new movement for aggressive, dark metal.” Hot damn, son, those are some fighting words. But while the San Diego group’s latest offering is a solid album, I ultimately don’t think that it’ll “reshape” the extreme metal landscape. When I spoke with vocalist Scott Lewis recently, (who was very kind and easy to talk with) he said:
“It was just looking back at our first album, Dead In My Arms. We put that out in a time where there were few bands doing that sound and then continuing that style afterwards. I envision the same thing happening with this record. I think it’s different for us and it sounds a lot different than a lot of bands on the current touring circuit. Once this gets out there, I think there’ll be a lot more bands following the path we’ve created with this record.”
Well, the band’s infusion of black metal traits to their sound is already utilised by many other big bands, from Dimmu Borgir, Immolation and hell, even Job For A Cowboy, to some extent. I don’t really think that this will revolutionise the genre, simply because it is just extreme metal in 2016. Furthermore, much like fellow touring veterans such as Thy Art Is Murder, Suicide Silence, Whitechapel, among others, it’s just nothing THAT new (it’s still a decent record, mind you).
That is, of course, the conundrum that many bands find themselves in; be too different that you become something else entirely, and thus, cannot “reshape” the genre because you no longer fit into it. Or you just don’t do things different enough and are just talking a whole lot of wank. For Carnifex, they are somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, sitting somewhere between arrogant ambition and hopeful confidence of their latest body of work. I mean, sure, it is a revolution and defining release for the band’s sound, what with a stronger black metal influence. But in the grand scheme of things, this album is just more of a continuation of their sound from ‘Die Without Hope’. “Carnifex – Now With 40% More Black Metal” should’ve really been the tagline for this record.
So if you’ve heard the previous couple Carnifex releases, then you may not be that surprised or astounded by what album number six has to offer, despite it being a perfectly fine record. As for the release itself, to absolutely no one’s surprise, ‘Slow Death’ is heavy as fuck and incredibly dark and bleak. Which is just how I like my Carnifex! But then again, that description is very applicable to the entire Carnifex discography, too.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad record by any means. It’s actually quite consistent and there are some really good songs here, namely ‘Six Feet Closer To Hell‘ (which is a bonafide banger), the metal as fuck titled ‘Drown Me In Blood‘, and the fitting album ender, ‘Servants To The Horde‘. While the remaining songs are fine, overall this album doesn’t have the staying power of something like ‘Hell Chose Me‘ or ‘Die Without Hope‘, which was always going to be a hard record to follow-up on.
However, one big positive that I found here is that ‘Slow Death‘ is so well polished in its mix that I’m sure you could probably see your own fucking reflection in the shiny surface. Every element in the mix is just so crystal clear and defined, and this is something that I can really get behind. ‘Slow Death‘ is arguably one of the better metal mixes I’ve heard all damn year, that’s for sure. It’s just engineer Mark Lewis doing what he does best – making great metal bands sound ever better.
As for the instrumentation, it really is what’d you expect from Carnifex. Heavy, down-tuned riffs, tight drums, surging bass, the occasional symphonic moment of synthesised choral and string sections, tasteful blast beats and breakdowns – it’s all there. To the band’s credit, there is a stronger emphasis on the grooves this time around, which make for slamming as fuck moments. It ain’t nothing on the new Whitechapel record in terms of groove, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. And as per usual, the vicious and sinister vocals of Scott Ian Lewis are just as good as they’ve ever been. If not better. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the band’s frontman may just be one of the best metal vocalists going these days!
But hey, for the shortcoming’s present, it’s worth more than a couple listens. At least the band hasn’t resorted to the near endless blasting of their first couple records. (See: ‘Dead In My Arms‘). I sure as shit wouldn’t want that to be re-shaped. Living through the vast extreme metal wave of 2007 -2009 is something I don’t wish to experience again.
While I can recommend ‘Slow Death’, I feel as though the very expectations and hype set by Carnifex hasn’t come to full fruition. Even after my twentieth bloody listen of this album (that’s no joke either), if my love for it isn’t going to manifest now, I doubt that it ever will. The saddest part here is I really dig what Carnifex put out, as I loved ‘Die Without Hope’. To be fair, this new record is a solid listen but is arguably one of their more standard releases to date. I think that’s because of the band’s self-appointed importance and grandeur of what this record could mean for their genre. But when it doesn’t achieve that goal nor come close to it, I can’t help but feel a little letdown. And I get it. Everyone wants to push and sell their work and talk it up as much as they can because they’re proud of their creation. However, going that one step further and saying that it’ll “reshape” what is an over-saturated and somewhat limiting genre is be setting the bar a bit too fucking high. Of course, it remains to be seen if this will actually be a landmark album for metal, but personally, I don’t think we’ll see a reshaping. But if we do, it probably won’t be because of ‘Slow Death’. I sincerely do hope I end up eating my words.
1. Dark Heart Ceremony
2. Slow Death
3. Drown Me In Blood
4. Pale Ghost
5. Black Candles Burning
6. Six Feet Closer To Hell
8. Life Fades To A Funeral
9. Countess Of The Crescent Moon
10. Servants To The Horde