Album: The Witch – EP
It’s hard to go anywhere these days without hearing about religion. Give yourself to a higher power, the crazed man on the street corner yells. Surrender yourself to Him read the Alcoholics Anonymous steps and pledges.
And that’s fine. Whatever you’re into. But what if that higher power isn’t God? What if it isn’t Allah or The Holy Spirit or Satan or any of the above?
What if it’s just The Witch?
…And so we join the protagonist to New York duo Animal’s sophomore EP, aptly titled The Witch. Loosely based around a troubled individual finding disparity, suffering and dialectic closure through Wicca, The Witch is more than just another record—it’s the comeback release by the cult favorites who brought us “The Downer,” “Dark Room” and many others, and even though it’s been several years since their last true release, dare I say, Animal haven’t skipped a beat. Infusing raw, horrific themes into a backbone built by heavy-handed metalcore and nu-metal alike, The Witch is a catchy-yet-crushing display of power that stands to stay stuck in the listener’s head, giving fans of nu-metalcore and heavy music in general a 2019 comeback they probably didn’t think was coming, and definitely didn’t know they needed.
Animal is the effort of instrumentalist Jonathan Folino and vocalist/lyricist Sean Loucks—two of the founding members of the band’s “full form” from 2015. While some things have changed, much of Animal remains just how you, the listener, left it: gritty, aggressive, grimy and repulsive all in the best ways possible, in large part to Folino’s fearsome instrumentation. From the jarring, ominous introduction to “Risen,” through “The Other Side” and “Succubus” and to the very end of “Acceptance,” Folino continues exercising his dominance over the band’s signature style of heavy-handed fusion between traditional nu-metal and off-the-wall downtempo deathcore. Far from just another “nu-metalcore” songwriter, Folino’s work, especially on “The Other Side” is intense, with pounding, immense percussion that is bolstered by thick, grisly bass and sharply contrasted with ear-splitting guitar that oscillates between groove-tinted leads and gutwrenching breakdowns. Likewise, “Acceptance,” the most placidly named cut from The Witch is among the most relentless, closing out the record with a sharp, piercing bang. Folino’s work behind the fretboard—and the mixing board—is amplified tenfold over the band’s previous efforts, using much more of the inventive, catchy song structuring prevalent on the band’s 2016 single, “I’m Sorry,” as well as “The Downer,” straying from the someone linear flow that Instinct boasted (albeit, boasted very well). Where The Witch, in some ways, feels like a musical sequel to Instinct, it’s the figurative Bad Boys II to Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s Bad Boys—same players, same style, same whimsy, but better in just about every remarkable way.
Just as Animal have a unique sound and style to their instrumentation—thanks In large part to Folino—frontman Loucks brings and undeniably unique voice to The Witch, and, by extension, the sum total of the band’s discography. From the first howls on Instinct, Loucks’ voice was heralded as one of the most unique (albeit polarizing) of the nu-infused low-and-slow movement, and, just as one could from the harrowing cries of “Dark Room” all those years ago, the listener can still instantly identify Loucks from the first seconds of “Risen.” Loucks’ range has since improved—evident on “The Other Side”—but his lyrical content remains firmly entrenched in horror and grim, bleak cynicism. With topics embracing love, abuse, murder and loss all wrapped around a loosely conceptual center, The Witch sees Loucks stepping up his game tenfold from even his most dynamic past works. This is exceptionally true of the closing cut, “Acceptance,” where, in keeping with Folino’s instrumentation, Loucks bares his entire soul vocally, leaving everything he has to give in that track to close out the otherwise immense experience that is the band’s sophomore EP.
It’s been a long time since Animal have graced the heavy music community with their presence—and honestly, like many, I wasn’t sure they ever would grace it again. However, The Witch sees them right back where they left off, with horror-infused lyricism, hauntingly heavy breakdowns, a driving and dynamic concept all topped off with gritty, grim production and catchy song structure to keep it all stuck firmly in the listener’s head, making it that much easier to surrender to the witch.
For Fans Of: VCTMS, Barrier, Introvert, Sworn In
By: Connor Welsh