I’ve always felt as if history is one of the most underrated subjects to study these days. True—the names, dates and hairstyles of countless events and individuals throughout the decades and centuries have little impact on how we live our day-to-day lives. However, there’s a component of history each and every one of us use every day: have you ever not repeated something you’ve gotten a poor outcome from doing before? Or maybe you continue to do something because you can extrapolate a positive outcome from previous iterations of the activity. Either way, these are applications of history in our own lives; actions we take in order to improve our standards of living and define who we are based on previous experiences—and when it comes to history, New York’s Makhai are experts not just in study, but in practice as well. CCXII is an exceptional display of a band truly listening to the products of a cluttered, cut-and-paste genre and adapting it, adding their own elements and dynamics to make it something truly unique and memorable—much unlike the powder-coated wigs donned by our forefathers in…what year was that again?
Makhai’s instrumentation is one facet of their all-inclusive aggressive artistry that jumps out at the listener no matter which track they should choose to listen to. No matter where the listener begins their analysis of CCXII, the musicianship is nothing short of masterful. “Bone Collector” kicks off the EP with pummeling, punchy percussion that is bound to get the listener’s blood boiling, with winding, grooving guitars faded and circling in the air above, waiting for their time to strike in the form of no-holds-barred dissonance. Fast forward to “Winter Solstice,” which is a short shout-out to the band’s penchant for passive, soothing ambience. An instrumental track that sounds almost as if the B-side to a Caspian album, “Winter Solstice” is a quick but immersive journey to an instrumental climax that contrasts rolling, dark bass guitar and light, shimming guitar. Moments like the climax found in CCXII’s interlude are not completely alone, however, as the conclusion to “All American”—as well as the conclusion to the album—are much more ethereal than the listener might otherwise expect from a track which spent upwards of four minutes beating the listener’s teeth in with raw, raunchy aggression. Even in spite of these scattered moments of smooth sailing to be found throughout Makhai’s murderous rampage on the listener’s eardrums, a majority of CCXII heirs to the side of boundless bitterness and awe-inspiring levels of animosity—not just where the instrumentation is concerned, either.
Vocally, Makhai put forth a comprehensive effort which is met with success—primarily. Shrill, high screams flow beautifully into low growls and cross a no-mans-land of a beautiful, harsh mid-range shout with seemingly effortless brilliance. “Soul Searching” is one track that does this exceptionally—including a climactic breakdown that uses the rough, gruff bellow with just accents of a shriek to provide contrast from the deep, driving dissonance—only to transition into a grimy, labyrinthine groove and a barely sane, half-screamed vocal style to match. However, Makhai encounter occasional pitfalls where they attempt to deviate from the realms of harsh, gritty screams, shouts and bellows. Don’t get me wrong—this isn’t a “clean vocals are the enemy” rant—rather, “Bone Collector” employs them with mixed success, using brilliant, wonderfully done clean vocals in parts of the song that don’t quite seem to fit. The same applies to the EP’s title track, “CCXII,” in which the problem with the vocals isn’t in their quality, but rather their tactical placement—or misplacement, as it may be. While the first two tracks might suffer from these stumbles, the duration of the EP is a bastion to vocal perfection—especially the overwhelming variety found in “Requiem” and “To the Cliff.”
CCXII is, as it turns out, the result of a band carefully inspecting the scene around them and crafting a release which takes all of the good and barely any of the bad—a picture perfect display of a prominent, proud history student in action. In fact, short of the combined forty seconds of questionable vocal placement throughout the first two tracks of Makhai’s debut EP, there is hardly a misstep or stumble to speak of. “Soul Searching” is one of the most relentless and intense tracks the genre has to offer—bombarding the listener with upwards of four minutes of non-stop aggression, yet avoiding monotony and suffocating density. Likewise, “Requiem” is sure to become an archetype for vocal patterning and diversity in the releases of Makhai’s would-be peers—much in the way every deathcore band and their brother wants to emulate Whitechapel’s Phil Bozeman or Suffokate’s Ricky Hoover, metalcore bands will look up to Makhai’s visceral vocal mastery. This is not to cast asunder the excellence of the instrumentation, however, as every second of every track is inventive, catchy and, for the most part, blisteringly heavy. By the time the serene conclusion to “All American” or the brief respite of “Winter Solstice” comes around, the listener needs it to carry on, more than water or oxygen.
If more history classrooms across America played CCXII for their students instead of same-old PowerPoint presentations and names that are hard to pronounce (let alone spell), maybe falling asleep in class and doodling all over “notes” would be a thing of the past. The short-but-sweet, cliffs-notes version of Makhai’s debut EP is this: excellence from start to finish, with just enough flaws to give the band something to study for the final exam.
For Fans Of: Barrier, Villains, Towers, Adhara, Existence, Sworn In
By: Connor Welsh