The sun is setting on mankind—a once glorious and robust guiding light now falters and fails, slowly descending from the sky. Its rays of reassuring light are squandered as a new realm of dark days lead humanity to its extermination. From a land of life and light, men, women and children are ushered into a realm of dark, dank despair—a realm under the watchful eyes of Cerebus. More than the gatekeeper to Hades and three-headed watchdog haunting the dreams of the hell-bound, Cerebus are a relentless deathcore band from the southern heat of Virginia. More furious than hellfire, and packed with enough raw, visceral energy to give Satan’s hound a run for his money, Cerebus are not to be taken lightly—as their debut full length album Hallelujah will have the listener praying for mercy long before it has run its course.
Instrumentally, Cerebus are a melting pot of deathcore essentials. Nic Wade leads the charge with an arsenal of punchy, energetic percussion that ranges from blistering, machine-gun blast beats to raunchy, fill-laden beatdown patterns. While the occasional fill might seem rushed or botched, the drum production throughout Hallelujah is far and away one of its highest points—as the fills that punctuate “Tracheal Agensis” and the atmospheric, splashy drum work behind “Alone” are two immensely different styles that practically define Wade’s range of expertise. Overtop of Wade’s diverse, frenzied percussion lies the fretwork of Jesse Brown and Andrew Jorgenson. Where Wade’s percussion might have encountered the occasional misstep, Jorgenson and Brown simply do not—as their dynamic use of raw, metallic riffs and looming, bottom-of-the-barrel, grime-covered chugs makes Hallelujah not just heavy, but diverse. “Pasta Straw,” for example, is home to low-and-slow chugs spliced together by thrashy, riff-driven harmonies—where “Driving with Her Eyes Closed” starts off with raw, grotesque breakdowns and ends with a hypermelodic solo that would soothe even the most savage beast. Where Brown and Jorgenson aren’t crafting unique and ear-catching harmonies, they’re doing what deathcore does best—chugging overtop of Wade’s deep, booming kick drum to create meaty, spine-shredding breakdowns. The best of these is likely found nearing the end of “BDSM,” with a sort of raw, throat-ripping heaviness that will bind and gag the listener with pure deathcore intensity.
However, to mention intensity would be to focus on Cerebus’ cunning vocal prowess. Kyle Littlefield lets loose with a cavalcade of crushing vocal styles and intense, vivid lyrics that are the very essence of deathcore. Whether it’s the raw, visceral aggression that drives “Rockwood” or the eerie, emotive ambience that haunts the closing portion of “Driving with Her Eyes Closed,” Littlefield is a juggernaut when it comes to vocals. Where portions of Hallelujah seem instrumentally standard for deathcore, at no point do Littlefield’s vocals make the same mistake. Whether its brees, squees, shrieks or bellows, he is the motor behind the bold, brutish anger that forced Cerebus down the listener’s throat, filling their stomach with concrete and their lungs with water.
Between Littlefield’s aggressive vocal onslaught and the instrumental dynamic established by Brown, Jorgenson and Wade, Cerebus are a deathcore act that truly live up to their name. True enough—where Wade’s percussion is occasionally wishy-washy, or the instrumental elements function as a cliché, the facts are still the facts: Cerebus manage to make an enthralling, captivating full length album—fifteen tracks and nearly fifty minutes—without any glaring pitfalls. This is hard enough for a veteran deathcore act, let alone a band releasing their debut. Cerebus effortlessly span metallic, rigid song structure and fluid, jazz-influenced interludes (a la “Retrograde”) without missing a beat—creating an immense, mammoth of a release that will crush the listener without second thought.
It would be worth dying simply to witness the vicious beast guarding the gates to the underworld—the beast that is Virginia’s Cerebus. With throat-ripping screams, bone-busting percussion and the heaviest breakdowns their side of the Mason-Dixon line, Hallelujah showcase the punishing, piercing pride that Cerebus bring to the scene with their debut release—a release that sets loose the truest fires of Hell.
For Fans of: Salt the Wound, Knives Exchanging Hands, Oceano, Whitechapel
By: Connor Welsh