Album: What’s Left of Us
Often times, the best stories come from those who might not have much left—they’ve been beaten and picked apart by life to a point where they put what little strength, youth and energy they have left into telling their story. In this fashion, even those with little more than scant scraps of sanity left can captivate their audience with tales of their past. Dreary, full eyes become vibrant and packed with life. Their heart—hanging on by a thread—snaps back to life with the strength of a Clydesdale’s cardiac fortitude. Youth floods their body as they put on a show with everything that’s left. You probably see where I’m going with this, but the debut full length record by groove-tinted metalcore/hardcore hybrid Distinguisher sees this rhetoric emerge in incredible fashion. What’s Left of Us tells stories of death—spiritual and physical decay—loss, infection, heartache and betrayal; but it does so with more spirit than one can even imagine. Distinguisher put their youth and dedicated, no-bullshit attitude on display, not so much with their lyricism but with their unmatchable energy and catchy, crushing candor, giving fans of all things heavy the start to 2017 that they didn’t know they needed.
Distinguisher give it their raw, unfiltered all on What’s Left of Us. Instrumentally, the band take a platform of punchy, strong metalcore and add influences that range from hefty, heavy hardcore to groovy, grisly bounce and depressive, nu metal. The result is unique—an album that’s familiar enough to take root quickly in the listener’s head, yet organic and original enough to blossom into something thoroughly unique. Percussionist Jacob Barsoum gives the band much of their bounce, yet adding more than his fair share of sharp, cracking precision. Tracks like “Autoimmune” are catchy and anthemic—with Barsoum’s drumming leading the charge as Distinguisher storm into the listener’s head. Meanwhile, if “Autoimmune” was as catchy as a plague, “Closure” is certainly as lethal as one, with Barsoum’s snare simply defining the song’s climactic breakdown, while he works diligently with bassist Brad Cornelius to craft a groovy, dancy low end that kicks the song off with more footwork-inducing, up-beat energy than a swing-dancing competition. Cornelius adds darkness and depth to the splashier moments of Barsoum’s drumming, bringing enough beef for a carnivore convention when songs call for it—and tracks like “Closure” and “Lowlife” definitely call for it. Atop it all, guitarist Josh Bearden is dynamic, giving the variety of vicious drum patterns and bass lines a multifaceted approach. This ranges from the nu-infused bounce and grit in “Closure” and “Autoimmune” to the straightforward suckerpunch at the start of “Lowlife” and the minute-long barrage of depressive angst within “____.” While Bearden might not drop solos left and right, and he might not abuse effects like many nu-influenced acts around the world have taken to as of late, he plays creatively, maximizing the raw ruthlessness of Barsoum’s percussion and Cornelius’ bass, amplifying the voracious, insatiable loathing found within the band’s vocal element.
Where Distinguisher’s debut offering showed promise—especially vocally—it lacked longevity and anything that really gave it a lasting, resounding impact in the listener’s mind.
That changed with frontman Joshua Wilson’s performance on “Ruin,” and it changes once more with the entirety of What’s Left of Us—and it changes for the better. Wilson remains rough-around-the-edges, gritty and raw (much as the entirety of Distinguisher is ravenous and straightforward in their assault), but uses tactful turns of phrase, catchy, half-chanting shouting and bitter, depressive and introspective lyrical themes to accentuate his vocal onslaught. Where many tracks throughout What’s Left of Us display this prominently, none do better than the album’s mournful closer, “Roam.” Here, Wilson is both catchy and cripplingly emotional, taking his vocal cords and ripping them out, using them to string the listener up as if they were being hung for high treason. Where “Autoimmune” is catchy and sing-songy at points, and “Closure” is a hectic, neck-snapping heavy-handed anthem, “Roam” is the entire spectrum of Wilson’s talents and lyrical strengths coming together—with high, pointed and shrill yells dropping into gritty, grisly low bellows without warning, snapping the listener in half like a twig.
What’s Left of Us is many things, and it takes on many meanings. It’s the withering, decaying frays of the mind and body that await us as we degrade into old age, disease and depression. It’s the blood, sweat and spit we spew when we give anything our all. It’s the last shred of hope we hold on to when everything goes up shit creek without a paddle. If nothing else, it is the sliver of soulful spirit left within the heavier end of metalcore that keeps faithful listeners coming back for more—as Distinguisher have done their name truly proud, setting themselves apart from the pack in a way that is thoroughly their own. With moments that are groovy and catchy, inspiring fleet feet and swinging hands in mosh pits around the nation that segue smoothly into moments of breathtaking, unbelievable and stupor-inducing, soul-bearing honesty, What’s Left of Us is indeed many things, but it’s definitely a record you need to hear.
For Fans Of: VCTMS, Extortionist, InVoker, Falsifier
By: Connor Welsh