Album: Helpless – EP
You’re trapped. There is no light, no window, and apparently no hope. Your limbs ache, even as they hang limply at your sides. There’s a throbbing in your head that drowns out each rational thought that tries to surface, and the only thing you know for sure is that you have to get out. This desperate, energetic feeling bathed in brooding, dissonant darkness is the feeling that floods into the listener’s brain at the beginning of Distinguisher’s Helpless. An EP built on quick, crushing instrumentation but moves like a steamroller, weighed down by Distinguisher’s penchant for punishing heaviness. Helpless is an experience that takes the listener’s sanity and compresses it like garbage, reducing their mind to sewage and their brittle bones to flakes of dust.
You can’t see, nor can you reach a level of calm that allows for rational thought. So instead, you take action: first feeling the four walls of your cell for a door, then furiously hammering away, desperate for attention and salvation.
But no one comes.
This hammering mirrors the energetic and excellent percussion of Distinguisher’s drummer, Jake Barsoum. Barsoum belligerently beats away, giving Helpless its sinister, bloodthirsty drive and appetite for carnage. “Father Figure” is Barsoum’s Mona Lisa—with a half-jazzy, half-heavy introduction that sets the track ablaze like a match on a mountain of straw. Even during the most frantic and frenzied moments of Barsoum’s beastly percussive onslaught, he has a shadow: bassist Brad Cornelius. Cornelius has no issue keeping up with Barsoum’s most blitzing percussion—but primarily, Barsoum hits the listener with tidal waves of sluggish-but-sonically-sublime drumming. “Leech” is a brilliant example. Barsoum’s kick drum is like a cannon, fed by Cornelius’ chaotic, chasm-like bass tone. Together, these two go as hard as diamond but as filthy as mud, giving guitarist Josh Bearden a solid, fertile ground from which to explode. Bearden is Distinguisher’s resident brutalizer, badgering the listener with crushing chugs (a la “Follow the Lines”) or eviscerating, energetic grooves and riffs (see “Leech”). Bearden might not break into beautiful solos or swathe the listener ethereality, but he is a master at what he does: murderous, misanthropic heaviness, start to finish.
When no one responds to your incessant pounding, you begin to scream. You scream until you hack up blood and phlegm, but still your cries are unanswered. If only you had the same powerful vocal chords as Distinguisher’s Josh Wilson–then maybe someone would listen. Certainly, from the first second Wilson lets loose on Helpless, he has the listener captivated. Take “Father Figure” for instance. On one hand, Wilson’s range is wondrous, roaming from skyscraping screams to filthy, guttural bellows. On the other hand, his magnificent mid-range shout allows the listener to become fully immersed in the stories he tells. “Father Figure,” again is an excellent example—as are “Follow the Lines” and “Deadweight.” In fact, all of Helpless sees Wilson brilliantly catching the listener’s interest with his immense range and then manipulating their interest into engagement with excellent lyrics that touch on everything from the genre’s staples of distrust and hate to personal tales (which linger on similar emotions). Cliche as it sounds, Wilson is more than another talented voice–and he proves it here.
You slump in the corner. Fists and palms raw. Voice practically nonexistent. Beaten down and buried in sorrow, one word comes to mind:
Distinguisher combine hard-hitting breakdowns, bare-knuckle beatdowns and grisly grooves and riffs from faster-paced metallic influences to provide a comprehensively abusive display of beatdown deathcore. “Deadweight” and “Leech” see Distinguisher at their riffier moments, while “Father Figure” oscillates between rare moments of progressive instrumentals and pure, visceral hate. While Distinguisher don’t bring much “new” to the genre, they do what they do with conviction and ferocity, setting themselves apart from the “heavy-for-the-sake-of-heavy” flock that defines the bulk of downtempo and beatdown deathcore stylings. In that sense, Distinguisher certainly live up to their name, making Helpless a release that is certain to send this quartet catapulting ahead of the competition.
For Fans Of: Rex, Feign, Portrayer, Disclaimer
By: Connor Welsh