Artist: Gift Giver
Bad things happen to good people for seemingly no good reason. No matter what you do to try and surround yourself with good karma and good people, the universe might just have other plans. Sometimes you’re the bird, sometimes you’re the statue—that’s just life, and you can either wallow in it and rot, or in the case of Detroit devastators Gift Giver, you can accept it and push forward. With their aptly named debut full-length, Shitlife, Gift Giver make the most of a word that won’t stop beating on their chests, using it as fuel for a fire massive enough to engulf the heavy music scene the whole world over. Shitlife is a dissonant, aggressive whirlwind that wastes no time in ripping the heart from the listener’s chest and devouring it before their vision blurs to blackness.
If you were to ask the members of Gift Giver if their debut release Daddy Issues would skyrocket them to the forefront of the national heavy music scene and score them a label signing and tours with veteran deathcore juggernauts, they’d probably accuse YOU of hitting too much hash. But fast forward to 2015 and here they are—setting the scene ablaze with their surprisingly technical, insanely catchy, obviously heavy breed of nu-metal turned deathcore. Instrumentally, Shitlife is a much-refined and infinitely more precise follow up to Daddy Issues’ raucous, racy stylings. With the addition of new percussionist Jake O’Shaughnessy, many of Gift Giver’s hyper-aggressive anthems are bouncier and catchier. The opening track, “Shitlife,” sees O’Shaughnessy doing what he does best, hammering away with intensely intricate tom patterns that beautifully contrast his razor sharp snare and punctual, thick kick drum. The re-release of the band’s single, “Deathwish” also showcases this, with more precise percussion to serve as a stellar scaffold for bassist Troy Wilson to weave in and out of. Together, Wilson and O’Shaughnessy are like a wrecking ball coated in rubber, crashing into the listener over and over again with copious amounts of both brutality and bounce. But, if the bass and percussion’s tedious, twisting nature wasn’t head-spinning enough, guitarists Nick Miller and Eric Snapper keep the listener’s head banging until their neck snaps. Almost every track features Miller and Snapper writing technically immaculate riffs that bounce with a old-school, time-honored nu-metal candor. This odd stylistic mash-up is what gives Gift Giver’s instrumentation a touch of its Fred Durst attitude. “Cursed” showcases this brilliantly, as Miller and Snapper lay down a series of stunning riffs that follow O’Shaughnessy’s bouncy drumming without a hitch.
Gift Giver’s penchant for pummeling, ruthless aggression with splashes of accessible, turbulent nu-metal doesn’t end with their comprehensive instrumental interplay. Vocalist Justin Johnson is every bit the preacher of putridity and pure misanthropy that he was on Daddy Issues. With an entire throat of visceral vocal ranges and a brain full of bitter, belligerent lyrics at his disposal, Johnson’s performance on Shitlife is jaw-dropping. “Bastard” sees him at his tamest—emulating Gift Giver’s more nu-metallic influences. However, “Loose Cannon” and “Scumbag Pt. II” see him fully exploring his incredible vocal range. Roaring with grimy, grisly low bellows one moment and screeching with his signature half-rapped scream the next, “Loose Cannon” is one of his greatest feats to date, as he hardly misses a beat for the entire track—until Emmure’s Frankie Palmeri rears his head. Where Johnson’s incredible range is nothing new, Shitlife highlights his incredible stamina, as his voice is absent from precious few moments of the album, expertly tracing the tedious patterns laid by Gift Giver’s musical masterminds.
After Daddy Issues’ surprise success and Gift Giver’s major label signing, the single greatest concern surrounding the Michigan quintet was that they may have “sold out.” If there is one thing you take away from this review, it is this: put your fears to rest, Gift Giver are still relentless, raunchy and ruthlessly heavy. While Johnson may not be urging the listener to “just kill yourself,” his lyrics on “Money Shot” or “Hellhound” are far from tame. Indeed, while the band may have shied away from straightforward aggression, they have certainly gained a more sinister and cunning style of bloodthirsty brutality, that plays more to their penchant for bouncy, booming nature than their chug-friendly side. That said, “Hellhound” is still skin-peeling, and the sequel to “Scumbag” is something that would not have been out of place on a Daddy Issues reissue. Shitlife is slammed with megatons of murderous material, with only one slight issue–it seems somewhat monotonous at first, making it a little difficult to truly get “in to.” However, once the listener rounds the album’s figurative “learning curve,” Gift Giver’s debut full length is one that is sure to stay on constant repeat.
Shitlife is the soundtrack to human negativity. It is the result of negative happenings and the fuel for misanthropic, malicious actions. Gift Giver have succeeded in crafting a technically prominent, fun-packed and furious release that truly stands alone in a rapidly growing style of heavy music.
For Fans Of: Sworn In, Spite, The Plot In You, Villains, Emmure
By: Connor Welsh