Album: Malice – EP
Among the annals of timeless lore, there are some stories and myths that stand out more than others—and few are as prominent as the fictitious “fountain of youth.” Think about it for a moment—if you had the ability to stop the aging process and live forever, would you? Would you be willing to gain timeless amounts of wisdom and experience at the price of watching everyone you know pass on, and everything you know wither away? Could you become eternal, or would you sooner succumb to insanity? In the case of Tampa-based deathcore titans Agerasia, they exemplify the former—but not without hints of the latter. Malice is a magnificent display of timeless deathcore tweaked and spiced up with flashes of insane heaviness and mind-melting technicality that make it more than just another batch of brutal-but-boring chug-chug anthems. From beginning to finish, Malice flows smoothly and strongly to provide a solid, entertaining outing for heavy music fans everywhere.
Malice stays true to its name with a gritty, grisly display of instrumental aggression that blends traditional death metal with hard-hitting beatdown hardcore and splashes of both emotion and technicality for color amid the varying shades of Agerasia’s abyssal black. Every track that adds to Malice’s moderate runtime adds a new musical style to the band’s repertoire. The album’s introduction, “2319” leans heavily on bassist Josh Herman’s low, grimy grooves—allowing it to flow brilliantly into “Process,” where Herman’s horrendously heavy bass tones melt beautifully into percussionist Dominic Guggino’s hefty kick drum. Guggino’s drumming is one of Malice’s strongest points—where “Process” sees him favoring clunky, catchy kick drum patterns, “Anxiety” sees Guggino roaring on all cylinders with quick fills, bright cymbal splashes and off-kilter beats to stay true to the song’s jitter-inducing name. Together, Guggino and Herman provide an incredible low end that is neither monotonous nor boring, rather, roams excellently from moments of colorful, vivid technicality to morose, murderous heaviness that plagues the listener’s ears like a disease. Atop it all, guitarist Tim Collura takes Guggino and Herman’s mammoth canvas and fills it with aggression, intensity and (even more) energy. “Process” and “Anxiety” have groove-tinted riffs that slice cleanly at the listner’s ears, while “Unwanted” favors an overall warmer and more emotionally-friendly tone—even while the track is still soul-shreddingly aggressive. Collura’s work on “Malice” is perhaps the climax of his furious fretwork throughout the band’s EP. Laden with crushing chugs and catchy, sinister riffs, “Malice” earns its place as the album’s title track, as it includes instrumental aspects from even the far corners of Agerasia’s sprawling spectrum of influences.
Where Malice’s musical backbone is a sturdy and relatively straightforward display of influences and innocuous flashes of technical flair, Agerasia’s vocal element sprouts out from it like jagged, bony vertebrae, as each track supports the band’s release with a varied vocal element. Frontman Trevor Starnes captures a comprehensive sampling of human emotion on the anthems that define Malice, ranging from ruthless aggression to brooding, bitter self-loathing and several midpoints in between. As one might guess, “Malice” is a magnificent display of aggression—with lyrics lashing outwards just as ferociously as they direct devastation back onto Starnes. Here, Starnes dominates with grating, strung-out mid-range yells that contrast starkly against his gruff, low bellows. “Unwanted” sees a corollary component of Starnes’ vocal arsenal—where his mids once more reign supreme, this time, Starnes includes shrill highs in between bouts of burly low growls, catching the listener off guard, fitting with the track’s uniquely depressive lyrical content. Starnes has no issue with diversity, either in styles of screams in shouts or in lyrical content, making his contribution to Malice magnificent, and an immense improvement over the band’s previous outings.
Agerasia may have captured technical deathcore fanatics’ attention with their flashy—albeit scattered—debut, Headlines, but with Malice, they appeal to a broader fan base with a refined sound that doesn’t completely omit their previously established penchant for technicality. Where Headlines lacked focus and replay value, Malice is infinitely more mature, making each song an immersive experience that flows smoothly and hits hard where it counts. Even the mellow instrumental track “Burn” is home to a subtle, minimalist beat that will keep the listener’s head moving, even as their pulse slows to a crawl. Likewise, “Process” and “Unwanted” are excellent examples of the band taking a figurative chill pill and showing off their newfound songwriting ability—while “Anxiety” is a furiously fretted and frantic track that retains technical value without sacrificing structure. The punchline is simple: While Malice’s Agerasia is less flashy and gimmicky, it is more well-rounded and thought-out, giving it more replay value and appeal to a broader spectrum of heavy music enthusiasts.
Anger—at yourself, at your enemies, at society—it all falls into Agerasia’s Malice: a groovy, heavy, dancy and flashy display of deathcore done right. Neither falling into monotonous pitfalls of chugs and blast beats, nor scatterbrained and loose, Malice will have crowds seeing red in venues across America, and Agerasia wouldn’t have it any other way.
For Fans Of: Bodysnatcher, Beacons, Dealey Plaza, REX,
By: Connor Welsh