Album: Beautiful Lie
With the advent of the internet and—specifically social media—human interaction and expression through language changed dramatically. A means of communication that was once multifactorial, relying on touch, sight and scent has, in ways previously unimaginable, been reduced to typed words on a cold screen. However, even before the dawning of a wholly digital age, there were elements to human expression and communication that were organic to a point of defying description—parts of our coexistence that transcended language altogether. These elements, in no short order, are explored in the context of passion and punishing aggression throughout the sophomore full-length record, Beautiful Lie. Inspired by John Koenig’s The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, Beautiful Lie is a complex and creative effort. On a superficial level, Degrader’s 2021 full-length release is a stellar metalcore record. On a deeper level, the lyrics and themes explored by the record’s individual tracks dive deep into varying elements behind human emotion and emotional reaction, creating a deeply personal and intimate experience without compromising raunchy, ruthless aggression. In doing so, Degrader have penned what stands to be among the best straight-up metalcore records in recent history.
From the first jarring chords of “Genesis” to the closing seconds of “Opia,” Degrader are nothing but pure, undistilled vitriol throughout the duration of Beautiful Lie. Brazen, intense instrumentation topped off by gritty, warm and raw production gives the record a feeling that simultaneously strikes on the familiarity of nostalgia with the excitement of newness. Songs like “Opia” and “Yu Yi” see percussionist Josh Kuhn oscillating between bouncy patterns and bombastic, explosive fills without skipping a beat, while bassist Ryan St. Amand covers everything in a layer of gritty, crunchy bass that adds depth and darkness to the record’s heavier moments. Other songs—like lead single “Des Vu,” alongside “Zenosyne” and “Socha” see Degrader experimenting with the more melodic elements of metalcore that first reared their head on From the Inside Out in 2017. Here, the band use the metalcore staple heavy/soft dynamic to wreak havoc on the listener’s ears, as guitarist Brian Quiroga transitions brilliantly from soaring choruses to skin-splitting breakdowns and chaos-inducing riffs with poise and expertise. In keeping with the ambitious mission that is the record’s overarching concept, every song captures a different balance of brutalizing aggression and beautiful melody, keeping the listener totally engaged, as Quiroga and St. Amand work perfectly together atop the riveting firmament that is Kuhn’s percussion.
Where Beautiful Lie’s concept truly takes flight is with the vocal and lyrical expertise from Degrader’s frontman Liam Geary. Geary’s voice is gruff and harsh throughout the vast majority of Beautiful Lie, adding earnest and heartfelt emotion behind every syllable. While his vocal work is consistent with his previous offerings as part of Degrader, his lyricism is monumental. Where a Summer 2020 single, “Ouroboros” saw Geary stepping into his own as a truly poetic wordsmith in an unlikely setting, Beautiful Lie sees poetic infusion and literary attention to detail behind every syllable. Moreover, the subtle repetition of lyrical themes (as both the repetition of the record’s title and the revisiting of likewise metaphor) link together even the most disparate of tracks—which is crucial, as Beautiful Lie is an incredibly varied record. While “Yu Yi” and “Zenosyne” are hard-hitting, adrenaline-junkie cuts of crushing metalcore, “Socha” as well as “Opia” and “Avenoir” use that poetic slant to play on the melodic aspects of the respective songs.
Beautiful Lie is a powerhouse. It combines emotional awareness and depth with some of the catchiest, most intense and hard-hitting breakdowns and riffs the genre has had to offer in some time. Degrader have gone from a band worth paying attention to on Burn You; Burn We to a band that simply demands to be listened to. Beautiful Lie is a must-listen record, no exceptions.
For Fans Of: Born a New, Extortionist, Boundaries
By: Connor Welsh