Album: Black Soul
Math has never really been my strong suit. I mean, I was never bad at it–I knew my times tables, even if I was sloppy with them past ten. I could divide pretty well, until it came time for long division–especially with polynomials. However, I was always, with no exception, strong with addition and subtraction. Especially subtraction. Which might be a small part of why when I discovered Subtract, a Washingtonian deathcore outfit, I was drawn to them instantly. The other reason? Their unbridled heaviness, cynical lyrics and dynamic song structure create an immersive, groove-laden experience accessible by fans of nearly any genre, as seen in their latest release, Black Soul.
From start to finish, Black Soul is an engaging, heavy and dynamic work of art. Loaded with drumming that stutters, pounds and rolls from segment to segment like piping hot magma, it’s a wonder how the guitars even keep up–because they do keep up. The guitar punctuates the already punctual drum work, following every twisting fill, blood-pumping build up and crushing slam to the letter. These elements combine to create hard-hitting deathcore that also manages to groove and flow so fluidly it almost (emphasis on almost) feels djent-y at times. These grooving moments often build up to segments of unrequited brutality where the lynch pin holding up the tension built by all the instruments is pulled by the vocals, and a maelstrom of anger is unleashed upon the listener. “Shut-Eye,” the first track of the album utilizes this tactic from the very beginning of the track, where pounding drums create a mountain which is shortly thereafter leveled by a grinding, crunchy breakdown.
While “Shut-Eye” is easily one of the EP’s highlights, one of Black Soul’s defining features is the absence of a weak track. At no point on this album have Subtract included a track leaving the listener wanting, bored or disappointed. Each track flows so smoothly from segment to segment, and the album flows so smoothly from track to track that Black Soul is much more prone to being listened to as a whole than on a track by track basis. However, each track also functions strongly on its own: be it “Black Soul”’s lyrical ingenuity, “Feed”’s blunt brutality or “Empty Shell”’s harmonic complexity, each track excels in it’s own light.
The inclusion of the build up/release breakdown or it’s stunning completeness aren’t the only beauties of the juggernaut that is Black Soul, however. Perhaps the single greatest thing about the EP is how constantly heavy and sludgy the release manages to be without being boring, monotonous or overbearing. Every breakdown has a distinct flare or quirk about it such that none of them seem over-chuggy or boring. Furthermore, each riff has just enough of a muddy, down-tuned quality to it that it doesn’t get out-of-place with the deep, pounding sound of the drums and bass. Really, more than anything, Subtract manage to keep the listener guessing “is this a breakdown, or just a heavy riff” long enough to keep them engrossed until the real breakdown hits, and all Hell breaks loose.
Black Soul, as cliche as it might sound, is like the soundtrack to a natural disaster. devastating, unrelenting, and monstrous, the only thing it doesn’t have in common with a veritable hurricane or tornado is how enjoyable it is for the person experiencing it. Subtract have truly shown prodigal mastery in a genre where it’s difficult to sound fresh and interesting–as Black Soul is so unforgivably punishing that the only begging that took place was me begging for it to keep going.
By: Connor Welsh/Eccentricism