I’ve never understood the notion of a ‘guilty pleasure’. This is especially true when it comes to something as personal and overwhelmingly harmless as music. If you truly enjoy something, then you shouldn’t feel guilty about enjoying it. Case in point: I love Carnifex’s new album. I’ve loved them for years. They were the first of the ‘deathcore’ bands I started listening to back in high school (I’m so old…) and I was immediately struck by the sheer ferocity of the music. This was pure headbanging metal and I was immediately hooked. I kind of forgot all about them for about five years but they’re back with a new album, Die Without Hope, and it’s good.
Let’s establish right here that this is not a game-changing album. Sempiternal was a game changer. This is just a tight, fun album written by an experienced band who are coming off a much-needed break. That they signed to Nuclear Blast should suggest to you that they mean serious business, and let me assure you, Die Without Hope is a vicious, feral animal that never pulls so hard on the chain that you begin to feel unsafe.
Deathcore is a much-maligned genre, and Carnifex seem to be at least partially aware of that. The overuse of the breakdown in modern metal is often cited as the primary symptom of its stagnation. Die Without Hope goes a long way to remedying that. Much like Whitechapel’s self-titled record, a heavier influence of death metal and structuring songs so that breakdowns are planted in sections where they will have the maximum impact is the norm. In fact, several songs don’t have any breakdowns at all. It’s a refreshing change, and when they do come, they hit harder than a goddamn freight train. There’s a great amount of variety in the songs, too. “Dark Days”, for example, is almost black metal in places. It features haunting string samples, a more melodic groove and Scott Lewis’ delivery is not dissimilar to Trevor Strnad of The Black Dahlia Murder. Speaking of Black Dahlia, the final song, “Where the Light Dies”, is a straight-up death metal song that closes the whole manic mess in perfect fashion.
The mix is sublime, the drummer is a freak and the guitars are tight, professional and controlled. They never get too wild or stay too reserved. They’re much like a baby bear’s porridge: just right. The lyrics are also not your standard deathcore fare. Rather than the sexual assault of religious figures and demonic figures consuming their entrails (I’m looking at you, Boris the Blade), Scott Lewis has constructed narratives that detail his personal struggle. The lyrics almost seem cathartic, as if Lewis is using his lyricism as a kind of therapy for the inner torment he has suffered through for the last two years. It’s refreshing to see a metal frontman, typically a position occupied by an alpha male figure like the wankers in Five Finger Death Punch (please don’t kill me, Mr. Bathory!), expose himself in such a vulnerable way to public scrutiny about such hot-button issues as depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
Ultimately, Die Without Hope is a good album. It’s not a game changer, and it’s not even as good as Impending Doom’s Death Will Reign album from last October (that album is one-a spi-cy meat-a-ball), but it’s a lot of fun and will probably feature in a lot of ‘End of the Year’ lists come December. Carnifex have come off their hiatus stronger than ever and if you’re a metalhead, this is worth your money. Horns up!