For Fans Of
2001’s ‘Iowa‘ is the heaviest Slipknot record but the band’s 1999 self-titled debut album is the angriest of the two, and also my personal favourite of the classic pair. Even so, I adore both records and as a major longtime fan of that band, I’ve noticed Slipknot’s influence becoming even more pervasive in the fresher crop of hardcore, metalcore and metal bands coming through these days. Look no further than newer acts like Cane Hill, Orthodox, or even the very subjects of this review – Texas’s Sentenced To Burn – to see the sheer widespread influence in sound I’m talking about.
As for this particular band’s newest EP, ‘The Seven Layers Of Skin‘ (those “seven layers” being represented by this release’s seven songs showing how hell resides within all of us, etcetera) is just Slipknot-worship circa self-titled and ‘Iowa‘. Which is fine, those records are great releases and they hold up very well today, but as someone who loves that band dearly and who has heard said records countless times over the years, this just feels like straight up imitation rather than mere influence.
Like most of these Slipknot-jacking bands, Sentenced To Burn also pull from more recent hardcore and metalcore realms (their breakdowns, tunings, sense of groove), but they’re also very much a product of the 1990’s metal landscape. You can see this from the vocals and the riffs, right down to the production and the songwriting overall. For instance, Sentenced To Burn’s vocalist delivers the same kind of angry, vehement screams and raspy, up-close spoken vocal moments that Corey Taylor (and other nu-metal contemporaries) abused the ever-loving shit out of two decades ago. Not only that but opener ‘All My Enemies‘, what with the fast tempo, the filtered drum ‘n’ bass part, the double kick placements, Mick Thomson guitar inspiration and background vinyl scratching proves this isn’t just me projecting either; these guys are quite clearly lifting their sound directly from old tracks like ‘Eyeless‘, ‘Sic‘, ‘People=Shit‘ and ‘The Heretic Anthem‘, among others. For better and for worse I feel, and it follows on with other tracks here like the punishing ‘GodHammer‘.
Moving away from The 9’s vast and inescapable impact on Sentenced To Burn’s sound, ‘The Seven Layers Of Skin‘ wraps up with ‘Black Hole Soul‘, the longest but arguably the best song of the entire release. Here, we see more of a darker, grungier and Deftones influence take shape with this band’s hardcore/metalcore sound. The wicked tone of the bass’s thick driving riff throughout, the song’s airy vibe, the phasey guitar licks that prop up every now and then, and the use of some solid clean vocals coupled with the odd dominating heavy section, place it in a very different light but a much better one I found. As stated mere words before, this track also has a very strong Deftones-like texture and vocal melody in the chorus, which I’m fucking all about. Yet it’s also nowhere near as gripping and as effective as Loathe’s utter banger, ‘White Hot‘. Which is still one of the best examples of that particular sound in recent memory; merging the deep darkness of Slipknot, Justice For The Damned’s mosh-parts with the light of Chino Moreno’s soaring vocal hooks. (Now, don’t get up my asshole about comparing bands to one another; nothing exists in a vacuum and I wouldn’t need to half the fucking time if some bands didn’t borderline plagiarise their influences).
Elsewhere, ‘Coupe De Grâce‘ features Emmure’s Frankie Palmeri and his guest spot feels like an inside-joke in some ways. Firstly because the way the song starts is how an Emmure song ten years ago would’ve begun and secondly, the slow breakdown and repetitive, up and down pinch harmonics (not unlike an old Machine Head track) that play underneath Palmeri’s feature sound similar to their ‘Goodbye To The Gallows‘-era. And look, the less said about that early period of that band’s career, the better. Plus, Palmeri, much like his old guest feature spot on that one Shinto Katana track, he just outshines this band’s vocalist in terms of impact and ability. But old mate does add a lot to ‘Coupe De Grâce, so there’s a trade-off going on here that’ll you either love or hate.
Also on another slightly negative front, this EP’s two interludes – ‘worldofhate‘ and ‘killme‘ respectively – are these mercifully short, dark and pulsating electronic tracks, but they feel pointless beyond the very first listen. The sentence worth of repeating lyrics in both of them didn’t help much either. I found the EP works just fine without their inclusion, which is how I actually consumed this release after my second or so listen. Perhaps if these two interludes were integrated directly into the band’s wider, heavier sound instead of being their own separate pieces, things would be less jarring and would work better as a cohesive whole too.
While they’re a fine band, I don’t think Sentenced To Burn are as strong as a group like Vein, a band who talso ake the raw emotion, high-level of anger, songwriting approach, riffs and the general influence of early Slipknot like STB do. The key difference is that Vein don’t just simply imitate said sounds; they make it their own in a lot of ways. While ‘The Seven Layers Of Skin’ EP is decent, you just cannot beat the OG’s sometimes. Because while this is EP good heavy fun, all I can think about when listening to it was the frankly better material of one vile, hostile, peculiar Iowa band who defined a generation of metal.
- All My Enemies
- Coupe De Grâce (feat. Frankie Palmeri)
- Black Hole Soul
‘The Seven Layers Of Skin’ is out now.