REVIEW: Advocate – Perfect Master [2016]

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Artist: Advocate 

Album: Perfect Master

 

Oh, to be free. It’s great, right? The notion that we serve none and are all individuals welcome to our own thoughts and actions. We take this freedom with the notion of responsibility—that we do not abuse it and use it in a way that benefits ourselves, and, in a more altruistic light, society at large.

But that premise—the one that we’re free to begin with—it isn’t entirely true, is it?

On one level, we answer to earthly forces—the law, governments, employers—and whether you accept their rules or guidelines, the consequences for violating them are certainly real. On another, there are those who answer to spiritual leaders and deities—but neither of these universally impinge our true freedom as men and women.

We are slaves to our own mind—oppressed by thought, emotion and doubt. Tulsa terrorizers Advocate know it, and just as truly as they know it, they break free of it for their Innerstrength Records debut, Perfect Master. A dark, dismal, dissonant and depressive display of heavily blackened deathcore combined with sludge and doom metallic accents, Advocate’s break-out full length record is a harrowing fuck you to the subliminal chains that bind and mire our every thought; creating a grim and grisly sonic adventure through acres of abusive Dissonance that only the truly fearless dare venture.

Where Advocate leapt into existence as a bouncy, somewhat-atmospheric progressive deathcore band, experience and time have shaped the Tulsan quintet into something much darker and more dismal. Perfect Master sees the group drawing from blackened death metal acts like Behemoth and Dark Throne while still keeping one foot firmly planted in the hectic and fast-paced hardcore and deathcore subgenres. This fine balance is established by percussionist Josh McElroy—and defined by the guitar work from riffsmiths Andrew Wilkins and Blaine Wood. McElroy’s drumming roams from quick, groovy and catchy—especially on the introductory number “Entombed in Black” and the barn-burner “Common Gavel”—to slow and sludgy. The latter is especially exemplary in the closing minute-or-more of lead single “Midwayers,” where McElroy’s drumming slows to a snail’s pace, as he works hand in hand with filthy, gritty bass to craft a sludgy, sinister breakdown that decays into pure dissonance before the listener’s very ears. McElroy doesn’t only work to drown the listener in low, slow hatred, however. “Perfect Master” sees them working with Wilkins and Wood both, sculpting a groove so catchy and crushing it can only be described as sinister. Meanwhile, more quick and pissed songs like “Entombed in Black” see McElroy demonstrating marked percussive prowess, oscillating between quick blasts and flying fills to keep the listener firmly engaged—all while Wilkins and Wood pour on dense, blackened grooves and riffs that practically drown the listener in stifling despair.

Speaking of stifling despair, few contemporary heavy artists bring the same feeling of depressive and desiccating dread that frontman Taylor Chalk brings to Perfect Master. With tortured howls that practically suck the optimism out of the listener, songs like “Entombed in Black” and “Perfect Master” are excellent examples of Chalk’s truly unique voice—with the former being especially remarkable. Chalk manages to be both catchy and ultra-abrasive—like a sander plugged in, put on “high” and shoved into the listener’s auditory canal. Assisted by Wilkins, Chalk’s vocal prowess is a truly extraordinary experience—an infusion of contemporary –core stylings with a penchant for black metal so raw it may as well have come from a forest somewhere in Norway. His voice is unrelenting oppression, adding a layer of lurid, hate-filled blackening to every second of Advocate’s album, be it during more “mellow” portions akin to the introductory track’s interlude, or the climactic breakdowns of “Midwayers” or “Brazen Serpent.”

In a word, Advocate might be deemed abrasive. Everything about their renewed sound and style on Perfect Master screams and shouts of raw, ravenous ruthlessness. If at any point, any member of the bandstopped during the creation of this release and suggested “hey, maybe we take it easy on the listener for this song, huh?” It must have been promptly disregarded—as there is not a second of rest or reprieve to be found. For those newer to more acrid and evil stylings of blackened –core, Perfect Master may be one or two degrees too intense to take at first—but before long, this brooding and brutal quartet break the shackles on the listener’s mind, opening their ears to true, unadulterated freedom the likes of which Advocate’s peers can’t even begin to duplicate

 

9.0/10

For Fans Of: Behemoth, Dying Fetus, Misgiver, Dark Throne

By: Connor Welsh