Album: Sacred Tongues – EP
One of my favorite things about heavy music is simultaneously one of the most irritating things about being a fan of heavy music—and I promise if you’re reading this, it’s happened to you. Ever shown a band to someone who isn’t down with “screamo”? You know, one of the uninitiated—a normie—only to be told it “doesn’t even sound like music!” or “what are they even saying? Can you really understand that?”
While there’s a lot to love about heavy music and its many styles, one of the most appealing to me has always been the vocals, and how the various styles of harsh vocals almost require a mastery akin to that of learning a new dialect to really understand. It comes easily to some and harder to others, but it makes metal and its subtypes into its own beast. And while up-and-coming deathcore act Betrayer use many of these figurative languages—tongues as it were—on their debut EP, none of them are even remotely close to sacred. Betrayer’s debut, Sacred Tongues, is one of the most oppressive and filthy deathcore releases to grace 2019, or more broadly, the genre’s recent history. Defined by heaviness that draws from old-school deathcore in the fashion that it blurs the lines between deathcore and slamming death metal and contemporary polish and production, Sacred Tongues is a masterful effort that serves to gives fans of artists like Lorna Shore, Osiah and A Wake In Providence another band to add to their “most listened to” lists.
Sacred Tongues is a ruthless and riveting display of contemporary deathcore done just right. Laden with eerie leads that fade into and out of spine-shrinking breakdowns and bone-busting slams, Betrayer encompass just enough old-school deathcore flair into their modern backbone to appeal to the more nostalgic arena of heavy music enthusiasts without sounding too familiar or played out. Songs like “Locust,” the first real track the record has to offer following the intro wastes no time in showing this off, with percussion that runs the gamut between insanely fast and low, trudging and lurid. “Hearing Voices” is another excellent example of the band’s instrumental dynamism, while “Embedded in Filth” sees the group relying more on the low’n’slow end of their range. Here, the drums work in excellent harmony with the bass, providing a steamrolling low end that leaves the listener looking more like a pancake than a human being, with Betrayer using upwards of six minutes to crush anything and everything in their path. Sacred Tongues is saved, in part, by its moderate runtime—as much more than 25 minutes of Betrayer’s brutalizing antics may stand to get old and predictable. However, the band expertly use their dialectic between fast-and-pissed and low-and-slow to keep the listener engaged, with hard-hitting riffs on “Ill Wishes” and the record’s title track to define them as separate entities to the much more slam-centric “Embedded in Filth” and “Hearing Voices.”
Vocally, Betrayer are one of the finest young deathcore acts in the country. No sugar-coating, no empty promises, no bullshit. Sacred Tongues has some of the grittiest and most ferocious vocals 2019 has seen to date, aligning themselves with the likes of Lorna Shore, Signs of the Swarm and Shrine of Malice when it comes to acts with remarkable vocals to compliment their ruthless instrumentation. Even independently of the brilliant guest vocalists Betrayer bring along (members of Lorna Shore, Gamma Sector and more), the band’s resident vocalist more than holds his own, slaughtering every track with a range that is nothing short of incredible. Where Betrayer’s instrumentation might border on monotonous towards the very, very end of Sacred Tongues, the group’s vocalist is simply one of the best young bloods the scene has seen in recent history and, if the group play their cards right, stands to be skyrocketed into fame before too much longer.
Sacred Tongues is more than solid—an under-a-half-hour display of deathcore dominance that fans of heavy music will easily be able to find themselves lost in. With no shortage of hard-hitting breakdowns, bold slams and skin-peeling riffs, Betrayer are a brutalizing, energetic and eviscerating act that are more than adept at rekindling faith in deathcore’s continued perseverance as we round the corner towards 2020.
For Fans Of: Lorna Shore, A Wake In Providence, Chelsea Grin, Gamma Sector
By: Connor Welsh