Artist: Despised Icon
Inside each one of us, there is an animal caged—and as cliché as it is, time and time alone has shown it to be true for every man and woman. It may take months, years or even decades for our innermost monstrosities to be released; it may take extreme circumstances or unbelievable situations, but it can and will happen. For Canadian deathcore legends Despised Icon, it took an entire discography, a hiatus leading to a break-up and a triumphant return to a genre left decrepit in their absence—as Beast is the band’s deepest fury finally awakening in an awe-inspiring onslaught of barbaric heaviness. Beast is a reminder of just how crucial Despised Icon’s early contributions were to deathcore’s substantive formation—and furthermore, it is a pulverizing amalgamation of rugged aggression, ranging from quick, pissed death metal to brutalizing slams and bone-grinding breakdowns, making it a truly comprehensive display of deathcore prowess that, even while short-winded, is sinister and skin-peeling from beginning to end.
Despised Icon are a curious band in the sense where their early albums played an undoubted role in shaping traditional deathcore as we know it; however, not content with an already immense contribution to heavy music, they added even more to modern deathcore with Day of Mourning shortly before their hiatus. Beast is—as “The Awakening” might imply—the band re-awoken, out for blood from the first frenzied riff and frantic drum pattern. Let’s be honest: many drummers in deathcore and metalcore bands of their own watched videos of percussionist Alex Pelletier on YouTube in their bedrooms during Despised Icon’s “glory days”—and his talent has not diminished one iota. Pelletier is still powerful and punchy—and of course absurdly fast. If “The Awakening” isn’t evidence enough, “Inner Demons” certainly is. Here, Pelletier’s kick drum is unparalleled, even during the band’s bouncy breakdowns. Somehow, even during his faster moments on “Drapeau Noir” and “Bad Vibes,” Pelletier stays technically immaculate, and bassist Sebastien Pichekeeps up with him effortlessly. Piche adds depth and dissonance to Pelletier’s pummeling drumming, especially during the crunchy, grinding breakdown in “Drapeau Noir” and the unbelievably heavy slam in “Bad Vibes.” Together, the two form a tremendous low end for guitarists Eric Jarrin and Ben Landreville to build from. Jarrin and Landreville are where Beast gains the feeling that it is truly a crossroads of the band’s earlier and more recent material. “Drapeau Noir” and “Inner Demons,” along with “One Last Martini” all feel like cuts that might have been left off of Day of Mourning—with “Drapeau Noir” even featuring a speedy, scathing guitar solo. However, the slams in “Bad Vibes” and “Grind Forever” feel more reminiscent of the fretwork in the Ills of Modern Man-era Despised Icon, just as “Beast” oscillates between both styles fluidly. Jarrin and Landreville are diverse in their death metal and deathcore stylings—hitting everything from straightforward two-steps to prolapse-inducing slams, giving heavy music fans a comprehensive tour of crushing brutality.
Jarrin and Landreville’s ability to draw from Despised Icon’s sprawling history is continued with the vocal efforts from frontmenAlex Erian and Steve Marois. These two, frankly, need no introduction—and they know it upon leaping throat-first into “The Awakening.” The duo are as deadly with their voices and lyrical prowess as ever; with “The Awakening” paying homage to the band’s prior achievements before moving deeper into Beast to break new ground. Where some of Erian’s verses and choruses may sound a little too similar to his work with Obey the Brave (especially for those who didn’t enjoy his more metallic interim project), other portions—like those led by Marois in “Bad Vibes” and “Beast” are a refreshing use of the dual-vocal dynamic the band boasts. Where “The Awakening” feels a little heavy on Erian’s voice, a great majority of the album sees Despised Icon using the duo as they were meant to be—a brilliant team, attacking the listener with everything from grating bellows to screeching shrieks and (thankfully) even pig squeals.
When a band has been as influential and immense as Despised Icon has been for deathcore as a whole, it’s easy to ignore any flaws in their albums—especially a comeback album. Sadly, however, Beast does bear some burdens that keep it from being a truly triumphant return to form. One has already been mentioned: certain parts sound as if they could have either been on Day of Mourning or on a heavier part of an Obey the Brave track. Ultimately this isn’t a big deal—Day of Mourninf was a great record, after all. The bigger issue with Beast comes from how short lived it is. A moderate ten tracks manage to clock in at almost exactly 29 minutes—and that’s with two tracks and almost 4 minutes of interlude-based filler. When there are songs as intense and incredible as “Bad Vibes,” “Time Bomb” and “Beast” to be found on the record, an interlude is understandable—but two seems a little unnecessary, especially when the album is under a half an hour already. Fans and deathcore fanatics alike will likely shrug it off—after all, Despised Icon are back!!!—but it seems that even though the Beast has finally awoken, it still seems a little drowsy and slow to get on its feet.
For Fans Of: Are you kidding? It’s Despised Icon.
By: Connor Welsh