Artist: A Stranger to Remorse
Album: Rapeface – EP
Built into the basic tenements of human nature, there is a bizarre fascination with violence. Bordering on obsession, mankind’s penchant for punishment and torture brings out sociopathic and misanthropic tendencies in even the most mundane men—those dark corners of consciousness are proof that we’re all just one trigger away from boundless, brutalizing malevolence. Case in point: the debut EP Rapeface from New York’s newest addition to the growing pool of purely hate-filled, visceral deathcore artists, A Stranger to Remorse. Rapeface is violence incarnate—hatred in its physical form—pure and raunchy enough to turn even a Buddhist monk into a brutalizing psychopath.
Those familiar with A Stranger to Remorse’s first few recordings are no doubt aware of the poor recording quality and haphazard instrumentation that plagued them—which is why they’re bound to be floored with the revamped musicianship and production on Rapeface. A Stranger to Remorse’s debut EP is clean and crisp sounding while still managing to perfectly capture the band’s grimy, grotesquely heavy instrumental approach to deathcore. From the opening onslaught of “Richard Holder,” every aspect of the band’s voracious style of deathcore is crystal clear, even as it sounds as if it’s coated in mud. The once-tinny and overwhelming drumming of Dustin Wild is still overwhelming, just in a whole new way: his kick drum sounds like someone taking a sledgehammer to a dead cow, while his cymbals are so flashy and bright they practically make the listener squint with glare. “Birth” is a brutalizing demonstration of Wild’s mastery behind the kit—dotting sturdy, towering percussion with blazing fills, synchronizing beautifully with Andy Koz’s cutthroat bass guitar to hit the listener hard enough to split their ribcage. Koz doesn’t simply relegate himself to aid Wild’s wild drumming—evident in the album’s title track, where Koz’s writhing, plodding bass can be heard fighting alongside guitarist Jeff Rowe’s abyssal chugs for airwave supremacy. While a majority of Rowe’s guitar work relies on hyperdissonant chugs and low, slow riffs, he is far from a one-trick pony—as tracks like “Kill Time//Kill People” and “IV” showcase his penchant for sludge-tinted grooves as well as chugged-out catastrophic breakdowns. Between Koz’ thick bass guitar and Rowe’s raunchy, groove-heavy fretwork, Rapeface is a chunky, heavy experience from start to finish, no holds barred.
A Stranger to Remorse’s maturation is not strictly limited to their musicianship and instrumental production quality. Amid all the instrumental mayhem Rapeface has to offer, the EP’s vocal element is also immensely improved, as Ryan Shanahan delivers a rollicking, relentless performance fans of deathcore’s early days will take solace in. Relying on grunted, low bellows and ear-splitting brees and squees, Shanahan shreds the listener’s eardrums, providing syllable after syllable of sheer terror. While his lyrical content is at times corny (and precisely what one would expect from an EP titled Rapeface), it still adheres to countless deathcore staples, centering itself around acts of tactless violence that could turn even a nursing home into a mosh-pit induced maelstrom. “Birth” sees Shanahan at his most lyrically diverse, and likely at his most vocally dynamic, ranging from the occasional screeching scream to unfathomably low bellows at the drop of a hat. Where Rapeface is an instrumental battlefield with churning chugs and piercing snare cracks, it is a vocal slaughterhouse, with Shanahan leading the listener to their demise.
You’re likely reading this review with a skeptic’s eye. I mean really, the EP’s name is Rapeface. Rape. Face. You can’t expect me to take this seriously. Well, realistically, I don’t—and A Stranger to Remorse probably don’t either. Rapeface isn’t going to redefine the genre with over-the-top technicality or innovative new methods of genre-melding or song-structure. Rapeface is heavy—period. Throughout the EP’s entire duration, there is not one split second of rest for the listener, as A Stranger to Remorse take turns walloping at the listener’s head with tire irons, sledgehammers, and anything else they can get their hands on that might inflict blunt force trauma. “Richard Holder” starts the album off with a chunky, bouncy breakdown, and it only gets heavier from there—as “Birth” alone contains insane levels of brutality that would make the boys in Traitors blush. While the EP sees A Stranger to Remorse briefly flirting with innovation and technicality at times (“Kill Time//Kill People” and “IV” especially), the majority of the release is simply balls-out, no-care-ever styled heaviness—the sort of heaviness that would break even Atlas’ back.
If you can get past the off-putting album title and the sometimes cringe-inducing lyrics, Rapeface is a thoroughly fun, relentlessly heavy deathcore EP that no fan of heavy music will want to miss. Brain-boring breakdowns, spine-shattering slams and ear-shredding vocals are just some of the facets of A Stranger to Remorse’s rollicking brand of deathcore that make the EP live up to its name—even if that might not please some of the band’s fans.
For Fans Of: Traitors, In Trenches, Towers, Annotations of an Autopsy
By: Connor Welsh