Artist: Swallowed Alive
Album: Reprisal – EP
Before you can object or outrun it, violence engulfs you. Your serene surrounds decay into disaster—fists fly, blood pours, bones break—and there is nothing you can do. Everything that was a stalwart of your identity is lost in a wash of devastation. This is the sentiment that sweeps the listener off their feet from the first second of Reprisal, the sophomore EP from the Ohio-based Onslaught, Swallowed Alive. This crushing quintet overwhelm the listener with ominous, oppressive heaviness in the form of a beatdown-tinted downtempo deathcore attack that is bold enough to split seas and fierce enough to level entire cities. Swallowed Alive take the bouncy, booming style of aggression they composed on Grit and amplify it, adding creative songwriting and masterful production to their dynamic, taking what was a band rich with potential and cashing it in, crushing the listener with an infinitely refined and boundlessly brutalizing heavy music experience.
Neither consistently low and slow enough to be a pure-blooded downtempo deathcore outfit, nor raw and gritty enough to be just another beatdown hardcore act, Swallowed Alive are the bastard child of the two genres in the best way possible. Reprisal is a ruthless amalgamation of the best qualities of each genre with no filler or wasted space. Percussionist Chris Vogagis is crushing, but quick when he needs to be—like a steamroller running on jet fuel. “The Haunting” is an excellent example—with the track building up momentum using Vogagis’ quick, darting toms and splashy cymbals, leaping right into lacerating blast beats just to kick the chair out from under the listener’s feet and snap their neck with meaty, booming kick drums and bone-busting breakdowns. Defined by a dizzying contrast between his cracking snare and crushing kick drum, Vogagis is a vast, vicious canvas for bassist Noah Woods to roam across. Woods’ role is—unlike many bassists in heavy bands—positively essential, as he both adds depth to Vogagis’ drumming, and serves as a firmament linking Swallowed Alive’s solid drumming to their hectic fretwork. Breakdowns like those in “Step by Step” and “Coup de Grace” showcase Woods’ efficacy, giving Vogagis’ kick drum an extra layer of meat while bolstering the brutalizing chugs from guitarists Stephen Surgent and Kevin Powell. Surgent and Powell are the fangs in Swallowed Alive’s mouth of gluttonous ivory. The duo can be either relentless and abrasive—best seen in “Step by Step”—or atmospheric and haunting, exemplified in the introduction to “Nycto.” However, even the moments like the subtle introduction to “Nycto” don’t last long before the duo shed their sheep’s wool and attack the listener like the wolves they are.
When it comes to wolves, the head of Swallowed Alive’s pack is where the band find their most unstoppable and awe-inspiring aggression. Frontman Cody Harmon runs the show that is Reprisal, using his unbelievable range and uncanny endurance to paint every track on Swallowed Alive’s latest release a different and disastrously gory shade of red. Aided by guitarist Kevin Powell, Harmon is a horrendously talented and horrifyingly intense vocal force not simply to be reckoned with—but to be feared completely. Whether it’s the passionate, poignant intensity of “A Mother’s Love,” or the cutthroat nature of “Coup de Grace” or “The Trial,” Harmon reigns with an unbelievable range and diversity that would normally come from two—or more—dedicated vocalists in any other band. Harmon’s vocals are visceral, varied and packed with more hate than all the ranks of Hell combined—giving his display of devastating vocal prowess all the originality and energy needed to keep the listener engaged during the entirety of Reprisal’s impressive runtime.
Where a half-hour run time is where most bands begin to flirt with the idea of a full length album, Swallowed Alive keep it short but sweet. Reprisal is an impressive release that ranges from low, slow sludginess that would make Traitors blush to frenzied beatdown hardcore and brutalizing deathcore that keeps the release energetic and aggressive. While it isn’t impressive that Swallowed Alive combine the two similar styles of heavy music, it is impressive how brilliantly they combine them over such a short and pointed runtime. Up until the closing seconds of “Pallbearer,” Swallowed Alive are oscillating between jarring jolts of eviscerating speed and obliterating, unstoppable heaviness. Harmon’s vocals flow from grisly lows to grating highs just as effectively as the band’s instrumental backbone range from ravaging, uptempo aggression to demoralizing downtempo devastation. Reprisal is a ruthless release that puts Grit to shame, swallowing the listener whole and chewing them up, leaving nothing behind but tattered remains.
For Fans Of: Traitors, Have Mercy, The Acacia Strain, Gravewalker
By: Connor Welsh