Carnifex is doing everything but dying slow.
It might seem like a surprise to many, if not everybody, that deathcore is still in existence as a genre. The contrived macabre themes and the mild overuse of bass drum may serve as different forms of deathcore kryptonite to some, bestowing or dethroning greatness from a track or an entire album. All conclusions reached, be them from devout worshipers or strict cynics, have to be credited to Carnifex. They’re already deemed as one of the pioneers of deathcore, but they’ve also managed to successfully quell the monotony of it, an accomplishment continued with the release of Slow Death.
First and foremost, let it be said that their 2005 demo, their debut full length Dead In My Arms and its follow-up, 2008’s The Diseased and The Poisoned, will likely remain the best things they’ll ever do. Nothing beats albums made in a genre’s heyday and the seedy underbelly of the early 2000’s was deathcore’s heyday.
As experts in the genre, Carnifex realized this and have still employed some of the definitive elements that granted them the title while keeping Slow Death sounding as fresh as possible. The album is heavily drenched with black metal elements, which is something the band has been perfecting steadily over time since they began transitioning away from Victory Records. The blackened veil begins as early as the album’s opener “Dark Heart Ceremony,” with a baneful piano intro leading into somber-toned guitars and a more orchestral execution than Carnifex has used before.
To boot, vocalist Scott Lewis has turned his predominant, vile shrieks into lower registered growls throughout most of the album, which pulls away from what separated them from other bands in the past. Lewis does pull out his classic sound occasionally, starting with a slight bit on “Pale Ghost,” but Carnifex’s classicism isn’t really heard until the second half of the album where it’s expressed almost fully on one of the album’s heavier tracks “Countess of the Crescent Moon”
On top of Lewis’s shift into guttural tones, Shawn Cameron’s blast beats do hold a solid foundation throughout the album but at times didn’t do much to elevate the song, like on the album’s title track, which is one of the weakest.
Jordan Lockrey’s lead guitar work adds necessary texture to the album but isn’t used as much as it should be. His solos are fairly succinct but could’ve been taken further to wholly elevate the song (“Black Candles Burning”).
Ending with the weighty “Servants of the Horde,” Slow Death has the breakdowns, the squeals and the grimly themed overtones that Carnifex fans have been hearing for the last 11 years. It’s a solid album, especially for deathcore in 2016, but by no means does it reinvent the genre.