Album: This Heavy Void
As we age, our spines shrink—we grow shorter, our posture worsens, we buckle under the weight of old age, as it were. Physiologically, this happens for a variety of well-documented reasons (water leaving the gelatinous material that comprises our intervertebral discs, spinal microtrauma resulting in arthritis, etcetera). However, mentally and emotionally, there is an explanation that is, dare I say, just as compelling. Throughout life, we accumulate trauma (different from those aforementioned skeletal microtraumas). This builds in us and wears on us—it collapses our spine, forms a hole in our soul that grows without replacing anything of substance, creating a void that grows and gains density. A black hole, if you will. The more we age—the more pain we experience, loss we suffer through and hardship we endure, it grows until it becomes us. This type of pain and the persevering burden it places on our shoulders serves as the content from which Bodysnatcher draw the title for their sophomore full length record, This Heavy Void. Instrumentally, vocally and lyrically their most oppressive record yet, Bodysnatcher do more than pick up where their previous, critically acclaimed fusion of downtempo deathcore, beatdown and deathcore left off. Instead, the band provide what is their most comprehensive display of emotion and aggression to date, using everything from vicious grooves to spine-shrinking slams to match the weight and intensity of their lyrical content to create what stands to be one of the first in a blossoming breed of monstrous deathcore releases with true angst, emotion and meaning behind every flesh-shredding breakdown.
Bodysnatcher’s legacy is one of aggression—from Abandonment on, the group have consistently delivered in creating some of the hardest-hitting contemporary heavy music the United States has birthed. This Heavy Void is no exception—excepting the fact that the manner in which Bodysnatcher deliver their over-the-top aggression is more diverse and mature than any of their previous offerings. Where The Death of Me (especially those songs on the re-released edition) saw the band moving away from the notion of downtempo deathcore and more into good ol’ deathcore (remembering that “good ol deathcore” draws influence from a broad spectrum of heavy music’s various subgenres in and of itself). This Heavy Void continues that trend, with percussionist, songwriter and producer Chris Whited (1776 Recordings, King Conquer) oscillating from bouncy, energetic percussion on “Disappear” and “Wilted” to speedy, aggressive and more intricate patterns like those heard on “Prisoners” or “Reparations.” Whited’s work is what allows bassist Kyle Shope and guitarist Kyle Carter (those invested in the Floridian heavy music scene will remember this name from Southern Florida act Beacons) to further diversify the styles in which they play. Take, for example, the lead single, “Merciless,” or the album’s closing number, “Prisoners.” Both of these tracks see a strong blend of riff-lead segments that segue smoothly into sinister breakdowns without skipping a beat. Others, like “Disappear” are more straightforward, and bear a candor more influenced by metalcore and hardcore’s beatdown counterpart. Here, Carter eases up on riffs and goes for the throat, working hand-in-hand with Shope to bombard the listener with breakdowns and two-steps that seem to draw from those played by the likes of Recon or Thick as Blood. The point is that This Heavy Void is diverse and more carefully thought out than any other version of Bodysnatcher the listener has heard previously. This does wonders not only in hooking the listener in right from the get-go, but for improving the record’s replay value far and away over The Death of Me or Abandonment—aspects of both those records that ultimately left the listener wanting.
Where Bodysnatcher have had their fair share of line-up changes that go a long way towards explaining the change (change for the better, mind you) in their sound, the one constant within the act is frontman Kyle Medina. Widely regarded as one of view “household name” vocalists in the underground deathcore, downtempo and death metal scene, Medina’s legacy is a lofty one to live up to. So how does he do on This Heavy Void? In short, he smashes it. Even with the relative abundance of guest vocalists on their 2020 record, Medina has no problem holding his own. Songs like “Merciless” and “Prisoners” show his range at its finest, whereas “Twelve/Seventeen” highlights his ability to expertly emote Carter’s lyrics of tragic loss. Throughout the record, Medina works with Whited and Carter’s lyrics both to create a comprehensive album that, while not truly conceptual, deals with more emotional issues than Bodysnatcher has addressed to date. “Twelve/Seventeen” is the best example of this, but “Turning Point,” “Never Homesick” and “Merciless” all directly address emotionally abusive and traumatic aspects of parenting and youth, where others—like “Disappear”—are more blunt, cutting the bullshit and taking a head-on lunge at foes less mental and more organic and tangible. It’s plain to see that the lyrical aspect on This Heavy Void was contributed from just about everyone in Bodysnatcher, but at no point do things feel forced or lyrically disjointed. The variety is aplenty—whether you mean lyrically, vocally, or even within the guest vocalists that shine on This Heavy Void (Jorge Sotomayor and James Mislow are two that many will be pleased to see and hear), it’s hard to listen to This Heavy Void and be left wanting.
While a void implies a loss or lack of substance, Bodysnatcher’s This Heavy Void is anything but. Sure—they have the heavy part nailed—but they also create a meaningful, substantial release that shines above their own past works and the works of their peers respectively. While 2020 is just picking up, it seems that this crushing quartet are driven to ensure that this year brings just as much heat as its predecessor.
For Fans Of: Slaughter to Prevail, REX, Genocide District, Beacons
By: Connor Welsh