Elysium: Noun. The place at far reaches of the earth to which Gods transported or conveyed heroes after death. Also: A state of extreme and unfathomable happiness—euphoria. Well, from Merriam-Webster’s mouth to your ears, there could not be a more apt description for the latest release by North Carolina’s hard to categorize (and even harder to dislike) quintet Lifecurse. Elysium is an album which—yes, on one level, provides the listener with boundless levels of joy and a trance-like euphoria, but, on another level serves as an Edenic playground to which any man or woman would be lucky to spend their afterlife frolicking. With intense, pulverizing instrumentation which is complimented by bipolar and beautiful vocal work, Elysium is the sound of a band working in perfect synchrony to paint a beautiful picture—which, if you listen closely enough, sounds just a little bit like heaven.
If the listener were to stumble face first into Elysium’s opening track, “Black Genesis,” they might think that they’d mistakenly wandered into the next Tron movie, or a Daft Punk practice jam. However, after the minute and a half of anthemic, electronic build-up, Lifecurse lay into the listener with lick after ferocious lick of progressive, stunning fretwork. Underneath this fretwork is a sturdy railway of ironclad, bone-crunching drumming and raunchy, diabolical bass which bounces to and fro as if it were a possessed elastic ball. “Oceans of Space” kicks off with a winding, catchy riff which snakes its way into the listener’s head and stays hooked for hours. Meanwhile, “Dead Weather” oscillates from bouncy, light-hearted grooves where the guitar seems to mesh fluidly with the bass and drums to heavy, grinding breakdowns which churn and crunch, smashing grating cymbals against chunky, steadfast and chugged guitar. These instrumental elements create a soundscape—an ocean of sound—that has serene, smooth patches, and a rough, choppy water which capsize the listener’s sanity and leaves them to drown.
Elysium’s vocal dynamic mirrors the multifaceted nature of the bipolar guitar and pounding, prominent percussion perfectly. While the instrumentation paints surreal images of tumultuous waters, the vocals are the pounding environment and the break in the clouds which control it all. Predominantly, thunderous, hard-hitting growls and visceral, shrill yells permeate the atmosphere, rending waters unruly and unkind. However, while “Dead Weather” opens with these grating, lightning-cracks of screams and sky-splitting shouts, the chorus takes the listener completely by surprise. Crooned, beautiful clean vocals calm Elysium’s waters and lift the listener away and out of the storm, to safety. Many tracks on the album use this tactic—“Delusions of Grandeur” and “Oceans of Space” key among them—to give the listener reprieve from the dense onslaught of Lifecurse’s brilliantly written instrumentation. In this way, the vocals dictate the overall mood of the album—even when the drums pound and the guitars grind and groove at the listener’s skull, soothing vocals still may dominate, soothing the listener. At first, the crooning and serenading of the singing hits home as out-of-place, but after repeated listens, the clean vocals do nothing but entrance the listener and capture their attention completely—much like Elysium as a whole.
Lifecurse combine their ominous and omnivorous heavy, destructive songwriting with contagiously catchy cleanly crooned vocals to create a unique and wonderfully executed dynamic. It isn’t terribly often that punishing deathcore heaviness combines so well with punchy melody and harmony—it’s even less common that this instrumental cake is iced with singing which is actually well done. “Dead Weather” attacks the listener with a sudden, halting change-of-pace with its inclusion of clean vocals which, at first, might seem forced or odd. However, once the album continues, the subtle hooks in “Delusions of Grandeur” and the awe-inspiring performance on “Oceans of Space” invade and lay eggs in the listener’s brain. These eggs hatch completely by the time “Lightdriver” finishes and leaves the listener both awe-inspired by the jazzy, progressive nature of the track, and devastated by its rampant, no-holds-barred heaviness. The fact that Lifecurse so brilliantly include so many different elements into each track they write is nothing short of beautiful—especially when it is all done with relatively few (if any) notable hiccups.
Don’t dismiss Elysium upon hearing it has clean singing—or a mildly generic name. It is anything but “generic,” just as the singing is anything but ordinary, auto-tuned filler. Soulful crooning blended with soul-smothering heaviness and progressive, intense atmosphere make Lifecurse one of the most noteworthy acts of year. In fact, the only curse Lifecurse may actually cast is one of an endless stupor and an insatiable thirst for more Elysium.
For Fans Of: Volumes, Reflections, Visionaries, Substructure
By: Connor Welsh