Album: End Note
How do you summarize an entire life? Sure that’s a loaded question to a point—it depends, doesn’t it? A life 20 years long is surely easier to distill than one 50, 60 or 80 years long. But even then, take twenty years for example—think about what can go on in that frame of time, and try to simplify it. Can you get it down to the length of an easy-reading summer novel? A magazine? A single page? Maybe you can, and if so, damn, that’s surely better than I could do, but take a second to think about what that means. Think about why you would need to cast an impression of your entire life in 500-words-or-less.
Is it because you want to? Or maybe you need to—need because by the time you’re done doing what you’re planning on doing, that page is going to be your entire legacy.
Such ideation—that of suicide, loss and desperation—opens the front cover on the debut record by Tucson’s deathcore titans, Decayer. End Note is a harrowing and brazen example of devastating deathcore with an introspective and meaningful twist, using gnashing riffs, gut-wrenching breakdowns and grisly grooves to strike home a message involving hope, love, kindness and compassion…even when the music itself is the type to instill anything but.
End Note sees Decayer take the very energetic, busy and bordering-on-chaotic brand of deathcore that they have spent their first two EPs perfecting and adding a newfound respect for groove. Many of the tracks throughout the record’s over-thirty-minute run-time include bold, bouncy groove aplenty for fans to bob their head to, taking the catchiest moments of The Agony Cycle and both refining and amplifying them. Songs like “Face Value” exemplify this, with a scalding-hot southern-style riff from guitarists David Scordato and Devon Marr. Scordato and Marr are busy throughout the record—“Face Value” is just the beginning. “The Cycle Continues” sees Decayer at their most technical, with dizzying leads that expertly blend aggression and careful, creative writing. Likewise, “Death Rattle” sees Scordato and Marr dumbing things down, going directly for the throat and working with bassist Keith Huffman to do so. Huffman’s bass adds punch and power to the faster-paced riffs that define End Note, while adding sludge and a towering low end to the thicker, beefier portions. The way he contrasts Marr and Scordato on “Death Rattle” or “A Father’s Aggression” is brilliant, just as is the way he adds heft to Taylor Bayless’ drumming on “Finding Purpose” or “Face Value.” Bayless’ drumming Is just as fast-paced and pissed as it always has been—make no mistake, Decayer haven’t lost a single centimeter of their edge—but focuses more on transitions and fluidity than it does speed and intensity (a departure from much of The Agony Cycle). Together, Bayless’ foundation and Huffman’s heavy-handed bass create a platform from which Marr and Scordato can build each hellion of a track.
Decayer’s claim to fame since the release of their debut EP and critically acclaimed follow-up is in part to their instrumentation and intense, contemporary deathcore styling—however, it is also in great part due to frontman Harrison Burkardt’s skill. Hitting a range of styles and pitches that can best be described as vast, Burkhardt dominates throughout End Note, giving the record both intensity and passion both. Lyrically, many of the cuts throughout End Note pick up where The Agony Cycle’s “16 Roses” left off—not to say they’re on the same topic, but they capture the same emotional aspect. Others—like “Abuse Victim” and “A Father’s Aggression”—are a bit more raw and ruthless, with Burkardt recruiting some of heavy music’s bigger names to help tell his story. All of this comes together in the form of a vocal onslaught. While some of the vocal mixing/mastering gives Burkardt a somewhat flat sound, especially during “Face Value,” the end result remains a vocal display of power second to none. Much of 2018 and 2019 have seen Decayer’s frontman gaining steam in the heavy music community and it is nothing short of well-deserved—for anyone skeptical, End Note demands your urgent attention.
End Note is a rarity among deathcore records. Even with the rare (and I mean very rare) cleanly sung segments, it still rings true as raw, ravenous deathcore—yet it delivers passion and emotion by the boatload. Songs like “Abuse Victim” hit just as hard as “Monocratic” or “Attainment Ladder,” while “End Note” and “Finding Purpose” are poetic and beautiful in their own way. While there could be some tightening of the vocal production, the final product remains one of the strongest deathcore offerings 2019 has put forth yet.
For Fans Of: Bodysnatcher, ENDINGS, Oceano
By: Connor Welsh