Album: Osculum Est Mortis – EP
You stand at the precipice of death itself. Arms open, eyes wide, jaw slack; everything you have been conditioned to fear more than fear itself sits before you, ready to overtake you. Its mouth open, cavernous and dark—save the glistening teeth sharpened to shear through flesh and pulverize bone—death waits, its appetite growing by the second.
Soon, you will be no more.
While you might not literally be looking death in the hairy eyeball (and if you are, stop reading this and run), you may as well be—as the debut EP by deathcore supergroup Revenant is about to inflict nothing short of blunt force trauma by means of slamming breakdowns, and skin-shredding laceration by way of lacerating blast beats. Osculum Est Mortis is the work of a band whose members once formed influential and enormous acts such as I Killed Everyone, Shrine of Flesh, A Night at the Chalet and, last but not least, Fit for an Autopsy; and it is no understatement to claim that this release lives up to the lofty expectations set by reputation alone. Ravaging from start to finish and the textbook definition of oppressive, Revenant are the second coming of some of deathcore’s greatest musicians, ready to unleash hell once more.
Instrumentally, Revenant are more than a simple summation of the works that defined the band members’ previous projects. On one hand, it would be folly to think that Osculum Est Mortis isn’t heavy—because it defines heavy, but it does so in a way that combines aspect of contemporary death metal, slamming death metal, deathcore and hints of symphonic, blackened atmosphere that make it big enough to get lost in, let succinct and to-the-point enough to punch through the listener’s skull in one shot. Percussionist Tom Salazar (formerly of I Killed Everyone) finds himself the diesel-and-sin powered engine of Revenant, fueling the band’s breakout release with gallon after gallon of grisly blast beats and pints of punishing, slam-tinted breakdowns. From Salazar’s first sinister chops of “The Devil and I” to the anthemic and aggressive climax to “The Blackened Genesis” and the series of throat-shredding patterns that define “Culling the Herd,” the man simply knows how to drum. His fills are punchy and fast, while his blast beats sound like a thousand machine guns firing in perfect harmony. Likewise, his footwork is impeccable, fleet and furious, working excellently with Robert Phillips’ raunchy and groovy bass lines. Phillips adds heft and thickness to every portion of Osculum Est Mortis—not that it was ever lacking in that department to begin with—making the breakdowns hit even harder and the fast, pissed drumming more substantial and beefy. Phillips might not steal the show at any single point during the band’s release, but he does provide an integral role to Revenant’s dynamic that allows Salazar’s drumming to link brilliantly with the work of guitarists Ian VanDenbergh (formerly Fit For an Autopsy) and John LaVar (formerly A Night at the Chalet). VanDenbergh and LaVar are, simply put, incredible. “The Devil and I” sees them abusing murky, dissonant and devastating chugs to create spine-shredding slams and breakdowns; while songs like “Sermon of Misery” are much more atmospheric and blackened, and “The Blackened Genesis” dives into furiously fretted leads and groovy, gritty shred that leaves the listener looking like a pile of pissed on confetti. The band’s instrumental aspects are diverse, each one as appealing as the last—and that’s as true of Salazar’s drumming as it is of Phillips’ bass and most definitely of the dynamic duo that is the combined fretwork of guitarists LaVar and VanDenbergh.
When it comes to capturing and distilling the very essence of evil and the devastating dearth that is death, few do it better than Cody Harmon (formerly of The Breathing Process). Harmon takes the sprawling and diverse display of death metal, deathcore and technicality that serves as his soundscape and paints it with carnal, uncivilized shades of red using little more than his vocal cords and cavalier attitude. On “The Devil and I,” Harmon’s voice pierces the listener’s ears, splitting their skull into fragments, dominating with a range that hits sharp screeches and low, lurid bellows. But as Osculum Est Mortis dives deeper and deeper into the bowels of Hell, Harmon pushes harder and harder at his own range and endurance, driving nine inch nails into the listener’s inner ear and twisting with every shrill syllable he spits on “The Blackened Genesis” and the anthemic, ultra-aggressive and angry closer, “Culling the Herd.” Harmon takes the range and ruthlessness he was known for in his former project and builds on it, refining it down to its best aspects and expanding upon those elements, making something scathing and sinister—giving a voice to the evil that lurks within the spirit of man.
While I took the liberty of including the previous projects (or current, in the case of Phillips and his band Legends Shall Fall), I did so not because I believe them to be better or more noteworthy. Rather, I include them to give you—the unknowing listener—an idea as to the inherent talent and practiced, honed skill that every member brings to table; the experience and attitude that guides Salazar’s spectacular drumming or the dueling fingers and riffs of VanDenbergh and LaVar. So take that knowledge and talent and imagine it working in perfect harmony, creating depressive and dismal atmospheres that include blitzing speed and brutalizing heaviness to pulverize the listener and bring them to within an inch of their life. More than the sum of their already impressive parts, Revenant craft an all-too-brief but more-than-intense display of crushing, cruel power that begs to be heard by fans of heavy music old and new.
For Fans Of: I Killed Everyone, Fit for an Autopsy, Thy Art is Murder, A Different Breed of Killer
By: Connor Welsh