Artist: Fallen Apollo
Towards the end of 2015, there was a massive resurgence of “traditional” deathcore. Regurgitated chugs and cheesy, obviously-programmed drumming took a back seat to bands that embraced their death metal roots and cut back (not cutting out, however) of open note-abuse that was passed off as song structure under the guise of breakdowns. I’m not saying it’s all bad—ask anyone, I love gratuitous chugging as much or more than the next fella—but it was getting old, and musicians within the heavy music community knew it. Enter Fallen Apollo—a band who start from a foundation of solid, speedy and riff-heavy death metal and incorporate equal parts slam-tinted brutality and raw, aggressive hardcore to create a deathcore release that one might expect was made in the mid-2000s. Dethroned is just what it’s name implies—a vicious attack on modern metal and deathcore, ousting the current, “trendy” styles in favor of a new—but familiar—reign that will leave veterans of the genre broken and gasping for life, yet loving every second of it.
If one had to describe the instrumentation behind Dethroned in one word, it would likely be a toss-up between “ruthless” and “nostalgic.” The listener gets no reprieve from Fallen Apollo—between the grisly, groovy bass, furiously fretted guitar and real, ravaging percussion, this Chelmsford quintet are the very essence of crushing. Drummer Joe Bills sets an excellent tone for the album, working with punchy kick drum patterns on “Tactical Planetary Obliteration,” while shredding the listener’s skin with insane salvos of blast beats during “Blood and Chalk.” Rather than spend the entirety of Fallen Apollo’s 30-plus minute full length release oscillating between blast beats and simplistic breakdowns, Bills carefully—yet creatively—Roams between energetic, catchy patterns that rely on his booming toms and deep kick and blistering blasts that leave the listener almost entirely skinned. Where Bills’ bass drum leads the way, Tom Southon isn’t far behind him, weaving snappy, slick bass grooves around each meaty thud. “Chasing Elation” is an excellent example, with a pointed and straightforward introduction that drops almost immediately into a dancy and quick two-step. Southon doesn’t just amplify Bills’ bold kick drum—he serves as a firmament upon which guitarists Ben Gilbey and Brandon Townsley can craft monstrous riffs and murderous breakdowns. Again, “Chasing Elation” is an excellent ample: where the entire first half of the track sees Gilbey and Townsley racing at full steam, the track hits a brick wall that gives way to an eviscerating display of no-holds-barred brutality. Even on the introductory track, “Decades Decay,” the duo are savage, shredding hither and to without regard for the listener’s well being—all the while, including enough dissonant groove and devastating chuggery to keep “new-school” deathcore fanboys more than enthralled.
Just as Dethroned is a testament to instrumental honesty to the genre’s earlier years, Fallen Apollo’s vocal dynamic is a stellar replica of the “Bree” and “wree” laden screams of old. Robb Clark is, simply put, a tank. Few vocalists have such a strong command over grisly low bellows like Clark does—and even fewer can quickly manipulate them into gasping, grating squeals and ungodly gutturals. “Acid Bath Burial” is likely his crowning achievement on Dethroned, as Clark hits his entire range while still channeling copious amounts of slam and slamming deathcore to keep up with the group’s musical soundscape. Clark’s range is just as noteworthy as his endurance—as he provides a consistently strong and creative voice throughout the whole full length without missing a beat or slurring a syllable.
The only “flaws” that Fallen Apollo bear with Dethroned are the inherent issues one runs into with recording live percussion and insisting on a nostalgic, gritty modicum of recording and production. In an era where most drums are “perfected” with a program in a studio, slight imperfections stand out as much as glaring missteps. Because of this, the listener can catch the occasional and incredibly slight slip in Bills’ percussion—and for picky listeners, this might be an issue. However, this gives a warm, human element to Fallen Apollo that makes segments like the mind-melting slam in “Acid Bath Burial” truly mind boggling (seriously, listen to that kick). Fallen Apollo may have sacrificed certain contemporary commodities on Dethroned, but the result is a release that is a true testament to what many genre elitists refer to as the genre’s “golden age.” With ease and eviscerating mal-intent, Fallen Apollo oust many of today’s monotonous deathcore acts and claim the throne—a throne they rightfully deserve.
For Fans Of: Postmortem Promises, Decapitated, The World We Knew, Misericordiam
By: Connor Welsh