Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Carnifex - Die Without Hope

After disbanding for an amount of time so short that it’s not even worth mentioning, Carnifex is back. These guys were one of those bands that were very popular amongst the huge deathcore fans; the people that listened to the underground shit like In the Midst of Lions, Annotations of an Autopsy, Here comes the Kraken, etc. As far as I’m aware, Carnifex got their big break when they landed a spot on the 2010 Summer Slaughter Tour, which was also my first time attending the annual event. Before that, their second record had been circulating throughout the underground deathcore and hardcore community with tons of positive feedback. After releasing the follow-up, Hell Chose Me, and getting on a major tour that same year, Carnifex had officially broken out of the underground. Then after releasing an album that I wouldn’t have known about if it weren’t for my visit to the Victory Records website, they disbanded seemingly out of nowhere.

I think that although they managed to attract a fanbase beyond that of the diehard deathcore fans (something that many similar bands never succeed in accomplishing), they were in the wrong place. Victory Records has the odd reputation of having primarily shitty deathcore and metalcore bands while having some legit death metal and...well….bands that don’t suck on their roster. I’m not super knowledgeable on the business side of the music industry, but I’m going to assume that the band disbanding caused their contract with the infamous Victory Records to fall through.

After announcing their comeback, I see an announcement about Carnifex from the last place I would have expected to even deem them worthy of mention, Nuclear Blast Records. The legendary label that only signs on the best of the best when they’re in their prime, the home of Immortal, Dimmu Borgir, Epica, Nile, Decapitated, Meshuggah, HammerFall, and numerous other bands that are nothing short of superior, signed a deal with Carnifex!? The last time I checked, the only deathcore and metalcore bands that have managed to maintain a spot on the Nuclear Blast roster for more than one album are All Shall Perish, Mnemic, and Threat Signal. The only reason this could be is that Nuclear Blast saw Carnifex cooking something up that would put everything they’ve ever done in the past to shame. So what was the final result?

One thing’s for sure, the first track was the worst choice for a first impression. If you’re someone that is quick to judge an entire album while listening to the first track, now is the time to go against your normal methods and keep listening. The first track is heavy as fuck, to put it simply, but there’s not much interest to it; it sounds like the bare minimum, except being done Carnifex style. Imagine Aegaeon, except with much better musicianship and some blast beats here and there; that’s what Salvation is Dead sounds like. But then again, by the time you’re halfway through the next song, this song will have been long forgotten.

Dark Days is where things start getting interesting. I’ve always been aware of Scott’s love for black metal, and he told me on a few different occasions that he was going to let some of that bleed into the sound of this new record. Now that I’ve heard the final result, it seems that the black metal essence of this record is being over exaggerated because there’s not much of it at all. What there is, though, is something very refreshing. This album is meant to be heard by the people that are tired of deathcore and are saying that it all sounds the same now and that none of the bands are progressing. If you can get your heads out of the mud long enough to listen to this, it just might be the breath of fresh air you’ve been needing. Dark Days takes the pianos, melodies, and orchestral sounds that the band has only merely toyed with in the past and weaves them seamlessly throughout the entire song. And when I say “seamlessly,” I mean perfectly. Not only have they managed to increase their already unmatchable brutality, but they have also successfully implemented grim melodies without sacrificing ANY of that brutality. The breakdowns are extremely memorable in this song, especially the one during the second half that has the screaming guitar melody on top of it to send chills down your spine. I know it sounds like I’m being overly poetic with my descriptions right now, but it’s the only way I can think of to accurately describe the sheer power of the sound Carnifex has created.

Scott’s vocals have never felt very emotional to me, which is why the pure anger of the music helps intensify his messages. But then again, all of Carnifex’s previous records were just pure anger; it almost felt dry at times. The lack of melody was one of the only (but major) downsides to their music, and probably was the reason why my immediate interest in them has grown smaller over the years. The big change that has been made in Die Without Hope is that it has more emotion than just anger. Before, the transitions were smooth, but there wasn’t much change in the mood. But now, the already perfect transitions are given the most unique twists with the different melodies I mentioned before. Going from a blast beat-driven stampede of anger into a blissful and almost peaceful piano or guitar melody that then drops into the most crushing breakdown like a bomb was just dropped is the best recurring trait about this album. And when you have that much of an improvement with the music as far as portraying a variety of moods and emotions goes, it helps expose the true feelings behind the vocals more than ever before. The vocals haven’t changed a bit, but they sound much more intense because of the music behind them.

The instrumentation is nothing short of perfection, the musicality has grown infinitely stronger, and the creativity has taken an enormous spike. Everything is mixed perfectly; the symphonic elements are in the BACKGROUND where they need to be; nothing is overpowering. If you liked the new Fit for an Autopsy record and want more brutality, this is an album you’ve probably already heard and love. Carnifex do a perfect job of staying very true to their roots while taking the things they’ve merely toyed with in the past and actually putting them to use without fail. Die Without Hope is not only a surprise, but an album that goes far beyond the expectations I had for this group. I’m giving this album 19/20.