Friday, October 12, 2012

Carnifex - Until I Feel Nothing

People that listen to deathcore know who Carnifex is. They certainly aren’t the biggest band in the genre, but it’s one of those things where at least 80% of deathcore listeners have at least some stuff by Carnifex in their collection. For me, I discovered them about three or so years ago when I stumbled upon an article about them on a random blog that was talking about the band’s second release, The Diseased and the Poisoned. Honestly, for me, that album is fantastic and is a great example of deathcore in its purest form with a bit more death metal in the mix than metalcore. But since I’ve already reviewed The Diseased and the Poisoned, there’s no sense in repeating myself. Only one year after releasing my favorite Carnifex record in 2010, Hell Chose Me, we now have a fourth Carnifex album on the table that is only known as Until I Feel Nothing. Here’s why there was such a big hype behind this release: Hell Chose Me. That album and the band’s appearance on the Summer Slaughter Tour apparently made Until I Feel Nothing have one of the best first-month sales of a deathcore album in 2011 (which is a list made up of a dozen or so albums, the top three being Born of Osiris’ The Discovery, Iwrestledabearonce’s Ruining it for Everybody, and Suicide Silence’s The Black Crown).

I actually didn’t hear about the album’s release at all until I went to Victory Record’s website to catch up on Jungle Rot. It was about a week before the album’s release when I saw the new album in the “upcoming releases” section of the site. Since most elitist reviewing sites/zines like Sputnik Music and MetalReview are usually pretty negative when it comes to deathcore, I decided to instead just wait till the album was released and let my first impression be me listening to it. After about a month or so, I experienced the same delayed effect that my friends did. It really did take me a little while to get into. Usually, an album that’s like that has an extremely complex structure and has a lot for you to take in. Well, Carnifex isn’t really that complex. They did have some fancy harmonizations in the guitars on Hell Chose Me, but it’s still nothing compared to the complexity of Iwrestledabearonce and All Shall Perish. But seriously, what is it about Until I Feel Nothing that made it harder for its listeners to INSTANTLY get into it?

Some might say that the change in style has something to do with it. Although I feel that there are other reasons as well, I agree that this is probably the biggest reason. When people think about Carnifex, they see them in the family of deathcore bands that have much more “death” than “core”, which includes Whitechapel, Fit for an Autopsy, As You Drown, Annotations of an Autopsy, and others. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE that I’ve discussed this album with have said that they feel that since some of the extra death metal sound has been taken out, there are now several holes in the sound that have been filled in with very weak ideas or just no ideas at all. For me, I wouldn’t say that their sound is any less solid than it always has been, but the absence of the extra death metal does act as a downer. So Until I Feel Nothing is what people would call “a really heavy and energetic generic deathcore record”. For a lot of people, an album with the word “generic” on it isn’t attractive (for some reason). As much as I love progressive music, I don’t think that anything that’s not progressive should be mindlessly put down and dissed. I actually listen to quite a bit of generic deathcore. Although when it comes to that, it has to be pretty fucking unique and good for it to REALLY impress me.

So because of that, I won’t let the progressive and genre-defying deathcore bands influence my opinion on this album because those bands don’t even have the same goals as Carnifex. Carnifex doesn’t feel the need to push the edges, they know how to make amazing music within the walls and contribute to keeping a solid and everlasting foundation for the deathcore genre. As much as I think that this album is one of the best generic deathcore records ever, the new sound just isn’t as fulfilling and addictive as the sound on the three previous records. Some would claim that the band turned into minimalists and decided to just go with the pure deathcore sound. But really, I can hear a hell of a lot more energy and bludgeoning heaviness on this album than on 80% of the generic deathcore records I’ve ever heard. Carnifex manages to stick within the boundaries and create extremely heavy and energetic deathcore without doing anything cheesy, cliché, or laughable. This is a deathcore band that (unlike some) knows what the fuck they’re doing and go the extra mile to prove it.

What I miss the most is the growling. When it’s Carnifex, I want the primary vocal style to be GROWLING. In Hell Chose Me, you rarely heard Scott scream his mediocre screams. The growls in Hell Chose Me and The Diseased and the Poisoned made the music MUCH darker and have a deeper sound. I never really liked Scott’s screaming because, well, they just aren’t that good. The reason why it’s not so bad this time is because Scott must’ve immensely improved his screaming while on the road in 2010, because there is a BIG difference in the sound of his screams on this album and on Hell Chose Me. The guitarists rarely harmonize like they did in Hell Chose Me, which is a disappointment.

The way that the guitarists harmonized is really difficult for me to describe. Some would say that they sound like a darker, minor-keyed metalcore guitar harmonization (if that makes any sense at all). This was yet ANOTHER thing that made Carnifex sound so fucking dark in their first three albums. Here’s another thing that I literally JUST noticed: the breakdowns are different. The only way that I can think of to describe them is by describing something I want you to picture in your head. In Hell Chose Me, the breakdowns were crushing, like someone holding up their fist for a long time and then bringing it down hard. The breakdowns on Until I Feel Nothing are more like having your arm hanging down and then you suddenly bringing your fist up and bringing it down hard. In other words, the music doesn’t transition into the breakdowns as smoothly as they did in Hell Chose Me, but it still fits all the other musical changes just fine. The breakdowns in Until I Feel Nothing feel a lot more sudden and blunt.

Despite the changes, Carnifex has left us with a fantastic piece of work. Filled with energy, CRUSHING breakdowns, bludgeoning blast beats, and anger-infused guitar riffs, Until I Feel Nothing is on my “recommend to all deathcore fans” list. If you haven’t bothered to check it out, check it out, it’s definitely worth it. I would give Until I Feel Nothing 16/20.