All of the sudden, you snap back into consciousness—the gentle ebb and flow of sleep suddenly morphs into a monstrous tidal wave, smashing against the rocky shore of your mind. For a moment, you hover in limbo—unsure whether the world around you is the world as constructed and decorated by your mind, or the world as it exists as a physical construct. Even though this feeling only lasts seconds—if you’re lucky—before your thalamus relays sensation and proprioception to the essential cortices of your brain, it feels much longer. This feeling is Retract/Relapse, the debut full-length release from Californian kings of crush, Seditionist. An infinitely more refined and mature release than their debut EP, Memento Mori, Retract/Relapse is an album which manages to combine frantic, furiously heavy deathcore with subtlety and serenity, creating an immersive, inviting, dream-like experience that wraps the listener in deceptive warmth before burying them alive beneath ten tons of treacherous, tremolo-picked heaviness.
Warm, woven tapestries of Egyptian cotton cover your consciousness, blinding them to the feelings and thoughts of the real world you remain blissfully ignorant of. This is the fluid, floating and natural side of Seditionist found scattered throughout Retract/Relapse. Highlighted by the two “Envoy” tracks that mesh to create a surreal, atmospheric escape from the genre’s normalcy, the ethereal elements abound on the album serve as surreal lullabies that seem to arise from nowhere and lure the listener into a trance. Even at the end of otherwise insanely heavy tracks, there is a calm side to Seditionist unlike any element seen on Memento Mori, or even from any other release the genre has seen yet. In this way, Seditionist use serene, immersive guitar and light, pleasant touches of pure nature to make a bed of silk and serenity for the listener’s ears to lie in. These sparse but stellar moments of bliss may not be highlights of the album in and of themselves, but they serve a greater purpose—to draw even more dramatic attention to the dismal, punishing heaviness that snap the listener back from the dead and once more into the realm of the living.
Just as your eyelids close and your heart rate dips—just as sleep seals its soft and safe embrace around you—you are jolted awake. Ambient, natural soundscapes are disrupted by machine-gun blast beats and jarring, dynamic riffs that cut and slice away at the curtains obfuscating the real world. “315B” and “Pot of Greed” do this exceptionally well, breaking the listener free from Seditionist’s tricky, trance-like grasp and dunking them head-first in skull-busting heaviness and spine-shredding brutality. Dynamic, intricate grooves loop and twist their way around the listener’s throat and squeeze, preventing them from shouting for help. All the while, punchy, heavyweight percussion beats and batters at the listener, busting bones and bruising their organs. However, the most lacerating element of Retract/Relapse is yet to wreak its full and fair share of havoc: the amazing dynamic formed between the shrill, sinister vocals and the furiously-fretted and shred-friendly riffs. Speeding alongside each other like it’s a race to see which can devastate the listener faster, these two elements unleash nothing but pure—blissful—agony upon the listener’s ears. Riffs like the one that weaves and roams around the percussion in “No Last Words” are among the best the progressive deathcore genre has ever seen, while “Searching” is home to a brilliant vocal effort assisted by a surprise guest—one whose range is welcome in the already diverse onslaught facing the listener.
Like torture, it carries on. Moments of subtle, smooth atmosphere lull the listener into a false sense of security and beckons them to bed. Things seem too good to be true because—ultimately—they are. Just as the listener thinks they’re free from the ultra-heavy beat and batter of Seditionist’s severe instrumentation and vocal assault, they’re thrust back into the midst of it. This is highlighted at the end of the album, where “Envoy: The End” fades into the album’s title track. Retract/Relapse goes out with a bang, cracking every rib in the listener’s body with brutalizing percussion, tearing open every orifice and herniating every vertebral disc in the listener’s spine. By the time “Retract/Relapse” is done trampling, tearing and twisting the listener’s sanity and perception of the world, there is only enough left of the listener to press the “replay” button and do it all over again—drawing into sharp relief the only, ever so slight fault in Seditionist’s album: there isn’t enough of it to go around.
Seditionist have crafted one of the most comprehensive and masterful release the progressive deathcore genre has ever seen—because there has never been an album truly like it. From the perfect vocal dynamics to the intense, awe-inspiring shred and sinister, pummeling percussion to the serene moments of bliss and peace, Retract/Relapse is an experience that demands to be had again and again—because once will simply not be enough.
For Fans Of: Nexilva, As Blood Runs Black, The Black Dahlia Murder, Hail to the King
By: Connor Welsh