Album: Kingpin – EP
There are a lot of people who claim it’s better to be feared than admired; better to inflict terror and intimidation than respect and love. More effective to dominate and rule with an iron fist and a hard heart than with benevolence and kindness; but what happens when that turns against you? What happens when the people you stepped on to get to the top get off their hands and knees and strike back? How do you answer when justice and comeuppance comes knocking?
What do you do when you’re revealed to be nothing but a crook?
That’s the question posed by punishing and powerful—yet enigmatic and energetic—breakout underground act Crook on their loud, lurid and head-shredding debut EP, Kingpin. A missile of sonic misanthropy homed in on the listener’s eardrums, every song Crook create is a murky and murderous amalgamation of anger and aggression, combining crushing slams with jarring, dizzying two-steps and grooves that glide back and forth between the two. Home to a unique vocal approach and an unstoppable penchant for grisly, gritty brutality, Kingpin is the underground king of crushing, cruel-and-unusual heavy, and they are preparing to get crowned.
Kingpin is heaviness and horrendous aggression at the top of its game. Just so polished as to really hit the listener with crisp, sharp snare and deep, vicious kick, yet topped off with grimy, low guitar and murky, raunchy bass to give everything a gritty, thoroughly unclean feel, Crook captivate the listener with wave after wave of wondrous might. With drums written, bass and guitar written and recorded and production done by Andrew Grace—the same mind behind ultra-heavyweight downtempo deathcore act Disclaimer—it’s no wonder why Kingpin is as relentless as it is. From the powerhouse introduction that is “Death Threat,” through “Bridge Burner” and to the very end of “Fake,” Grace fills every song with…well, pretty much the opposite; gruesome, gory heaviness. “Deadweight” might have one of the heaviest and sludgiest breakdowns (with a slightly slammy tint) this side of 2017, while “Bridge Burner” and “Fiend” have tremendous two steps worth their weight in gold. Grace has proven time and time again that his ability to write music that captures the true essence of bitterness and raw, tactless and terrifying horror is nearly unrivaled, and he does so again with Kingpin, combining elements of heavy hardcore, traditional metalcore and metric tons of filthy, furious hatred directed at several people, but rather, the world in general. Grace combines elements from across the heavy music spectrum; especially elements influenced by –core from this year and years gone by, to make something groovy yet gutwrenching and powerful, ripping the listener to shreds with tooth and claw.
Crook don’t crush the listener with a simple—albeit sinister—instrumental approach. No, you don’t get off that easily. Instead, frontman Alex Horedeman provides a hotter-than-hellfire display of unique vocal intensity unlike most of what you’ve likely heard before. With shrill, high, belted yells that segue into skull-melting, mind-numbing low growls and grisly guttural bellows, Hordeman’s vocal onslaught is diverse if nothing else. While there are some times—like moments towards the end of “Bridge Burner,” where his vocal style seems to clash just a little too much with the otherwise oppressive instrumentation presented by Grace, a vast majority of the time, his unique voice and sprawling range are refreshing and engaging. Take, for example, his vocal presence throughout “Death Threat,” which stops at nothing to hit highs and lows the listener would have never seen coming. This trend continues throughout “Fake,” to the EP’s very last syllable, where Hordeman’s strained, desperate and deadly voice spits syllables more pissed than urinals at sports arenas. Even where Hordeman’s vocals don’t fit the absolute best they could, they’re still an excellent vector for the vicious lyrics that serve as Crooks’ misanthropic message, and are thoroughly unique for this style of heavy music; something not many bands can even pretend to say.
Kingpin will, without a doubt, find itself running your music player’s heavy playlist for the forseeable future. Even with some discrete and subtle nuances found within the vocal choices made by Hordeman and the overall brevity of the release, it is still a marvelously unique and completely crushing display of raw, ruthless, passionate, punishing aggression. If those aren’t enough adjectives to make it up your alley, then do yourself a favor and check out Crooks for yourself—because before too long, they’re going to be breaking into your head and stealing your sanity either way.
For Fans Of: Knocked Loose, Depreciator, Disclaimer, Bodysnatcher
By: Connor Welsh