REVIEW: Signs of the Swarm – Vital Deprivation [2019]

Artist: Signs of the Swarm

Album: Vital Deprivation

 

As a species, there are things men and women (and non-binary individuals) need to survive. Sustenance, hydration, breathable atmosphere—some would argue things like shelter, love, attention if you’re particularly needy—but really, without one of those first three things, life ceases to exist. These things can be taken—robbed, abruptly—or they can be removed in a much more sinister way. They can be drained, siphoned out slowly, over time. You can see the life turn—not leave, but turn—from something bright and beautiful to something cold, dull and grey. You can see things once standing tall and proud start to wilt. Crippled by the gradual withdrawal of the things they depend on.

They become deprived, dependent on being spoonfed just enough to get by until one day, even that starts to fade. Life becomes a wisp of the once booming plumb it was, This day, as of 10/11/2019, is upon us. Vital Deprivation begins in full effect, with much thanks to overtly brutal deathcore juggernauts Signs of the Swam. Following in the footsteps of their critically acclaimed sophomore full-length record, Vital Deprivation is vicious—just under forty minutes of pure fury, offering a condensed and crushing display of Signs of the Swarm’s renowned style of ruthless extreme music.

Signs of the Swarm’s Vital Deprivation is, in some ways, a marked departure from the sonic offerings put forth by their previous works. Where the band remain heavy—in many ways heavier than they’ve ever been—they deviate from their previous tactic of brute-force bludgeoning the listener to death with belligerent slams and breakdowns. Many of the songs, including the introductory, titular cut and “Martyr Unto Dust” see percussionist Jimmy Pino at his finest (which is remarkable, considering his past work is by no means sloppy). However, these tracks see Pino doing more than mile-per-minute doubles and machine-gun blast beats. “Martyr Unto Dust” sees him working with Bobby Crow’s beefy bass to create a thick, looming sense of atmosphere that hangs over the listener’s head like a leaden albatross. Where the song is not without a couple gut-busting moments, it focuses instead on dreary atmosphere. Conversely, “Tempting Death” or “The Blood” are nothing short of world-ending. Here, Pino goes all out, and Crow’s crushing bass is a firmament for the furious fretwork from guitarists Cory Smarsh and Jacob Toy. Smarsh and Toy take new liberties on Vital Deprivation as well, riffing away on “Martyr Unto Dusk” and “Celestial Ascendance,” while saving the more robust displays of ruthless aggression for “The Blood” or “Lost Within Reflection.” The duo work dynamically with Pino’s perfect percussion to create a soundscape of intelligently written brutal deathcore that showcases neither a reliance on slams or breakdowns or overt tech-death worship, but instead, something blended and beautiful in its contemplative brutality.

If you’re reading this, you probably aren’t reading it because you were concerned about a musical switcheroo—you care about new frontman David Simonich, and whether or not he carries his weight. To be short: he does. In more detail, Simonich is an excellent candidate to match Signs of the Swarm’s musical evolution. While it’s true, he isn’t CJ, he doesn’t try to be, instead using his own techniques and skills to make his mark on the band’s legacy. “Tempting Death” and “Malevolent Enslavement” are two songs that see Simonich flexing his range—while “Martyr Unto Dusk” offers density in the form of content as opposed to strictly skill. True—there are segments of Vital Deprivation where Simonich’s annunciation could be better—but that same fact stands true of the vast majority of vocalists within this niche of extreme music. His visceral, bordering on gurgly (if we’re being scientific) style and tone match the more primal and punishing aspects of Vital Deprivation to a tee, offering synchrony. Simonich is a sinister vocalist as much as he is a powerhouse, and steps up to the plate with blue suede shoes when it comes to taking on handling vocal duties for such a daunting project as Signs of the Swarm.

Vital Deprivation is difficult to compare to Signs of the Swarm’s previous material. There is veritable growth and progression—whether it is in a direction that is “better” than the band’s past records is ultimately an individual call to make. There is no denying, however, that Vital Deprivation offers more of the various skills and talents of the band and showcases much more variety than the listener has previously witnessed from them. Does this mean there are fewer ignorantly heavy sections like those found on yesteryear’s “Final Phase”? Yes—but it also means there is more atmosphere and depth placed into other components of the band’s dynamic than ever before. For this fact, I don’t think of Vital Deprivation as a linear progression from The Disfigurement of Existence as I do a parallel deviation. Different, but just as good.

 

9/10

For Fans Of: Enterprise Earth, Osiah, Visceral Disgorge, To The Grave

By: Connor Welsh