REVIEW: Fail to Decay – The Black Book [EP/2014]


Artist: Fail to Decay

Album: The Black Book – EP


Imagine for a moment that, somewhere, tucked away in the most secret of places, there is a book. Inside this book is a compendium of knowledge garnered over countless generations that is near bursting with secrets—secrets that aren’t simply read and processed, but rather infect the reader’s mind, spreading through the gyri and sulci of their brain and dominating their thoughts. If this book exists, Fail to Decay have certainly read it—especially considering the resounding mastery present on the band’s most recent release, The Black Book. This EP makes marvelous use of the mysterious art behind blending emotion, energy and aggression—crafting a brutalizing, bone-splintering metalcore release with sections of indelible emotion and passion. These elements are all blended so smoothly and serenely that it must be the product of a band who has not just seen the black book, but truly internalized it and turned it into one of the most diverse and multifaceted releases 2014 has seen so far.

From the very beginning of “Southern Cross,” Fail to Decay proudly portray their penchant for punchy, aggressive instrumentation and dominating, intense vocals. Downtuned, grooving guitars whittle away at the listener’s sanity, tearing hair from their scalp strand by strand with a combination of incredible precision and razor-sharp riff writing. Meanwhile, visceral vocals erode and decay at the listener’s bones, melting them into chyme as if they were gallons of acid pouring out the listeners headphones. “Conspiracy Theorist” and “All Seeing Eye” are two more tracks that take advantage of The Black Book’s brutalizing, belligerent instrumentation. “Conspiracy Theorist” leads the charge with Jacob Carlson’s punchy, pummeling percussion—packed with technically marvelous fills and booming, bone-busting bass drum. Meanwhile, “All Seeing Eye” is home to the band’s most diverse vocal assault—with Joshua Carlson letting loose with every manner of high screech, harsh yell and bellowed growl imaginable. This vocal dynamism is matched only by the fretwork of Daren Menz and James Benson, letting loose with stellar displays of both masterful, tasteful shred and groovy, grimy heaviness. However, despite the copious musical mastery, there is another, more crucial element to The Black Book’s success which truly sets it apart from the efforts of Fail to Decay’s peers.

Where all of Fail to Decay’s instrumental efforts and technical proficiency might make them above average, tracks like “Bitterblossom” truly enable them to stand apart from other bands plaguing the overpopulated waiting room that is metalcore. “Bitterblossom” is a track that perfectly balances raw, skin-shredding aggression and energy with palpable, heart-rending and ethereal emotion. With instrumentation that oscillates from rampant, in-your-face anger to floating, atmospheric ambience, a perfect canvas is crafted for the diverse, masterful vocals to roam across. Carlson’s vocals reach from a sky-high shriek to a half-talked, almost La Dispute-esque shout that imparts poetic value and heartfelt experience onto the listener, making the words he shouts, screams and bellows more than just lyrics, but true stories and experiences that the listener can truly relate to. “Black Book” does this as well—framing brilliant, touching vocals inside of shredding, lacerating instrumentation to create a diverse, multifaceted and immersive experience that truly keeps the listener engaged, rather than passively diffusing their way through the EP.

Whether it’s intense, neck-snapping head banging or heart-rending captivity, The Black Book has a death grip on the listener’s attention from start to finish—something that cannot be said for many metalcore releases these days. Fail to Decay let loose with a remarkable display of diverse vocal work and crushing, energetic and unyielding instrumentation that rips and tears at every ounce of the listener’s being with unheard of ferocity. Whether it’s the brutalizing, shotgun-to-the-chest approach of “Southern Cross,” or the more subtle and emotional tactics of “Bitterblossom” and “The Black Book,” Fail to Decay have seemingly no limit to the extent to which they can truly get through to the listener. Downtuned, dissonant riffs roar side by side alongside machine-gun blast beats or brooding, chugged-out breakdowns in a sort of primary stampede of instrumental aggression—while the vocals soar over top, spectating and contributing without truly melting into the instruments. In this fashion, the two elements remain in constant contact, but never truly homogenize, giving the listener a great variety of things to focus on; ensuring the album avoids monotony and maintains as much replay value as possible.

Whether or not you choose to partake in the scandals, secrets and certain mistruths of the Black Book Fail to Decay speak of, there’s no denying that whatever it is the band have taken away from their experience with it is genre-defying and game-changing. Relentless energy, ambitious aggression and palpable, veritable emotion define the band’s recent release, making The Black Book an experience that the listener will surely find themselves flipping through again and again.



For Fans Of: Failure in Vanity, Beacons, Dealey Plaza, Barrier

By: Connor Welsh