Album: The Agony Cycle – EP
There’s a saying in medicine that goes to know Lupus is to know medicine. It started as something else—an earlier, more simple disease we’ve likely obliterated with the advent of hygiene and antibiotics—but it’s been adapted to countless things within the medical field. Syphilis, Rheumatoid Arthritis—all sicknesses referred to as “great imitators,” for their ability to run a thorough gamut of symptoms ranging from (literally) head to toe. To be able to identify and diagnose something like Lupus is to know the condition of truest illness within man.
But that’s not entirely right.
Physically that may be true, but there’s a whole different dimension to the human condition that needs addressing: the mind, and more importantly the heart. When they ache, they ache in dialectic—a condition not defined in any medical textbook but is just as poignant.
Decayer, an Arizona-based deathcore outfit, are back with their sophomore effort after an especially promising debut. The Agony Cycle is the band tracing back their deathcore roots and tearing that tree right out of the ground with an onslaught of riffs, grooves, chugs and slams. Borrowing from heavy hardcore to metalcore to death metal and deathcore, The Agony Cycle is a relentless-yet-introspective unraveling of man, which demands the statement—to know The Agony Cycle is to know true agony.
Instrumentally, Decayer are deathcore, and even in an era where every band is intent on being “impossible to fit into one genre,” any argument to the contrary is fallacy. While the band do an excellent job of including more variegated elements into the soundscape—infinitely more so than their debut—they’re still a deathcore band, and a damn good one at that. Percussionist Taylor Bayless may as well be named peerless, as his work throughout songs like “Monocratic” and “Bastard” is simply dizzying, He provides a solid, punchy foundation that incorporates speed, technicality, aggression and energy in equal parts to simply dominate this listener’s head. Meanwhile, bassist Keith Huffman works with guitarists David Scordato and Devon Marr to provide groovy, grisly, furiously-fretted insanity. With songs like the emotionally bombarding “16 Roses” in sharp contrast with the ferocious “Bastard,” Decayer prove that, on The Agony Cycle, they can capture a multitude of sounds and styles, even within the deathcore niche. Using everything from bare-bones, ass-beater breakdowns and riffs to more intricate, razor-sharp leads and skin-slicing, pseudo-slamming elements, The Agony Cycle is an instrumental chimera that sees the musicians behind Decayer stepping their game up not just in reference to their previous release, but in reference to the bands that serve as their contemporaries, creating a mind-boggling display of deathcore mastery that isn’t afraid to spice it up with splashes of everything from beatdown hardcore to traditional, rampant metal.
Decayer’s instrumental intensity serves as a fluid foundation for the aspect of their dynamic which has likely undergone the most remarkable transformation since their debut—their vocal and lyrical effort. Frontman Harrison Burkhardt—who has always been talented—is now ungodly in his prowess when it comes to all things brutalizing. With a range that hits grisly, flesh-shredding lows and throat-tearing high shrieks, Burkhardt’s energy, effort and dyanism throughout The Agony Cycle is impressive to say the least. This is seen at its best in “Agony,” “Bastard,” or, a personal favorite, “Monocratic.” However, where his voice is immense, his lyricism is even moreso. Ditching the overt political themes (with the exception of elements within “Monocrtic”) and opting to work more from a more personal, dark and intimate area of his psyche, Burkhardt opens up to the listener—especially on “Bastard” and “16 Roses.” Both of those songs are tidal waves—in many ways, mind you—but especially with the way in which Burkhardt’s voice, lyrics and creative, poetic candor simply dazzle the living Hell out of the listener, making The Agony Cycle as appealing to the heartbroken and sullen as it is to the headbangers.
The Agony Cycle is Decayer taking a prodigal debut release and proving it wasn’t just dumb luck and smoke-and-mirrors. The band are brutal, subtle, fluid and furious all in one absolutely dizzying display of power. The Agony Cycle refuses to yield to a single soul—be it a listener, a critic, another band, anyone—and it is one of very few releases that manages to truly capture one of humanity’s most feared and hated emotions.
For Fans Of: Edorra, Bodysnatcher, Falsifier, Filth, So This is Suffering
By: Connor Welsh