Album: Provost & Judge – EP
We all have some authority to report to. Like it or not, there’s another rung on the administrative ladder higher than us—a bigger fish in the food chain—to which we owe responsibility and accountability. This is one of the greatest sorrows of modern society—but it is also the source of immense and peerless beauty. Without “the man,” or a higher authority, there would be no inspiration for passionate, powerful rebellion—no reason to let loose with the wildest, most base instincts of mankind to effect positive change and raw displays of ravaging emotion. Whether it’s the towering talent of Advocate’s latest EP, Provost & Judge, or its ability to instill energetic, emotional response within the listener, the band could not have picked a better name for their debut album. Enormous, atmospheric elements guide currents of gnashing, intense heaviness to provide a dialectic, destructive experience that abides above the efforts of Advocate’s peers with an iron fist and a stern gaze.
Instrumentally, Provost & Judge oscillates between ethereal, spacey moments of eerie calm and lurid, white-hot riffs studded with punctual, bone-shattering breakdowns. Back and forth, Advocate flow with the sort of ease only reached by sheer experience—driven with the power and zeal provided by the purest passion—providing the listener with a dynamic experience that will appeal to prog-heads and chuggaholics alike. None of Advocate’s instrumental intricacy would be possible without percussionist Josh McElroy. McElroy is an energetic, intense monster behind his kit—hammering away with bizarre patterns that are the last thing anyone would expect from a deathcore band. Even the brief breakdown ending the EP’s introductory track is deep and looming, as McElroy’s kick drum sounds like cannon fire and his snare cracks as loudly as a sniper rifle. However, his aggressive and violent percussive mastery doesn’t end there; the rollicking, rampaging “Gohusda” speeds along without stopping and giving the listener a break, but does so without a single blast beat, truly defying the tired, overdone stereotypes plaguing deathcore drumming. Even as McElroy proves a stellar performance with engaging percussion, he serves as a star-studded canvas for the efforts of guitarists Andrew Wilkins and Blane Wood. Wilkins and Wood go from shredding and tearing at the listener’s ears one second, to painting immense, overarching structures of sonic atmosphere the next. “Judge” is a stellar example: beginning with subtle samples and eerie, ethereal atmosphere, “Judge” only truly commences nearly three minutes into the eight-minute epic—when Wilkins and Wood drop the hammer and let loose with grooves so raunchy that they eviscerate the listener without a second thought. Provost & Judge’s lead single, “Vermin Illustration” is another example of Wilkins and Wood’s penchant for punishing, lurid fretwork—especially when aided by the low, slinking fretwork of bassist Skylar Johnson. Johnson aids the duo by adding a hefty, crushing low end to even the most soaring sections of ambience that brings the skyscraping riffs and shred sessions crashing down on the listener’s head with ruthless fury and remorseless aggression.
In keeping with the band’s diverse and atypical instrumental dynamic, Advocate’s vocal effort throughout Provost & Judge is far from the listener’s expectations considering their self-described style of blackened, progressive deathcore. Vocalist Taylor Chalk is, in a word, dynamic. “Provost” is a punishingly accurate example of this. Within minutes, Chalk ranges from a gruff bellow (oddly reminiscent of A Plea for Purging’s earlier albums) to a haunting, chill-inducing cleanly sung segment (Deftones, anyone?) and topping it off with a frantic, shrill scream that wouldn’t be out of place on a Stray from the Path record. Chalk adds a colorful—but crushing—array of diversity to Advocate’s already enormously varied style of deathcore that is refreshing to say the least. Even moments where the band’s instrumentation might stagnate on its own is made vivid and aggressive by Chalk’s fierce vocal push. “Gohusda,” along with the aforementioned “Provost” showcase this best of all—especially towards the end of “Provost,” where Chalk’s vocal efforts keep the track from feeling repetitive, monotonous or pretentious.
If there is one thing to take away from Advocate’s Provost & Judge, it is a new definition of deathcore as we know it. Somehow, this Oklahoman onslaught managed to craft a magnificently heavy and technically impervious deathcore release without abiding by most of the genre’s overdone, tried-and-true staples. There isn’t a blast-beat or pig-squeal to be found throughout Provost & Judge, and there is hardly a dime-a-dozen sweep-pick over-laid breakdown. Instead, Chalk’s gruff bellows and ear-splitting screams serve as an unusual cherry atop a mammoth-sized cake of groove-laden, riff-tinted, chug-driven musical mastery. Somewhere between “Gohusda” and its incessant energy provided by its galloping candor and the epic lesson in progressive, atmospheric deathcore that is “Judge,” Advocate have done what very few deathcore bands have done before—and what even fewer have done well. Advocate have taken a completely out-of-left-field amalgam of metallic and hardcore elements, covered them in grime and filth, cooked them until seared with a blackened, crisp crust and smashed the whole mess into the listener’s spine, paralyzing them with pure, beautiful deathcore.
If Advocate’s debut release, Provost & Judge is the authority to which modern deathcore must report to, then I don’t think anyone would complain. Filled with life, passion and pride—not to mention punchy, skin-peeling heaviness—Provost & Judge is the sound of a band making music with their entire heart—the proud, passionate and pissed parts alike.
For Fans Of: Solace, Salt the Wound (Ares), Martyr Defiled, Misery Signals, Glass Casket
By: Connor Welsh