Artist: Swallowed Alive
Album: Human | Nature
We write a lot of inherent problems with the world around us off as vestiges and side-effects of “human nature.” Someone cuts you off in traffic to get somewhere? Human nature, I guess. Someone takes the last jar of peanut butter at the grocery story from right under your palm? They wanted it and moved fast; human nature. However, more and more, “human nature” is becoming divided into two separate categories—either innately human or primitive and natural. This is especially true with the advent of technology, making man-kind even further away from our primal predecessors than ever before. However, in the purest fits of rage and aggression, our instincts overwhelm us—or, to put it in the context of this review, they swallow us alive. This Ohio-based group of deathcore devastators know it—and on their forthcoming full-length record, Human | Nature, calm, collected humanity is overwhelmed by pure, punishing brutality. Swallowed Alive combine quick, bouncy metalcore with rash and ruthless downtempo and deathcore elements to create a comprehensively eviscerating experience that any fan of extreme music will want to endure at least once.
Swallowed Alive engulf the listener with intense, murky dissonance—from start to finish, Human | Nature is a nasty, nerve-wracking and haunting experience that beats the listener into submission without relent or remorse. Bassist Tyler Gautier steps up, above and beyond the call of duty for bassists in deathcore acts; as his rumbling, snappy bass tone is much of what makes Human | Nature a unique experience. Throughout quick, pummeling songs like “M.T.C.” And “My Lament,” he can be heard slinking atop the dancy percussion from Chris Vogagis, working as more than just a dense shadow for Vogagis’ punchy kick drum. Together, Gautier and Vogagis are an incredible duo, working well at any speed they choose—with faster songs keeping the listener’s pulse sky-high, and slower, more sinister songs like “Bound by Chains” and “Aether” showcasing that, even with Gautier’s higher-than-normal bass tone, he can still drop the floor out of the song and leave the listener scrambling to find solid ground. Where Gautier and Vogagis provide a solid low-end, guitarists Ronnie Leggitt and Noah Woods range from ravaging riffs to crushing breakdowns. “The Witness” sees the duo combining djenty, oddly timed progressive metalcore and harsh, heavy-handed hardcore elements beautifully—having the listener bobbing their head one second and two-stepping the next. Meanwhile, “My Lament” sees the duo combining death metal and hardcore excellently—giving a solid, staple deathcore feel that will appeal to veterans of the genre just as it will catch young, naïve ears as well. Where the over-an-hour long album provides countless examples of Leggitt and Woods working well together, the take-away point is a simple one—all of Human | Nature is an exemplary display of instrumentation in the deathcore genre, and picking one song that stands above the rest is a true exercise in futility.
Just as Swallowed Alive devour the listener with an intimidating instrumental performance, their vocal element is far from peaceful. Imagine the primal roars and savage, shrill shrieks of our primitive and aggressive predecessors–now imagine them placed against a canvas of creatively crushing metallic instrumentation, and you begin to get a feel for Kevin Powell’s powerful vocal approach to Human | Nature. Dominating every song with a sprawling range of vocal styles—from raw, mid-range yells and shrill screams that drop into grisly growls—Powell absolutely annihilatesthe listener over the course of the album’s fourteen track tour-de-fury. Where “Bound By Chains” sees Powell using an unorthodox vocal style to contrast one of the album’s overall slower and heavier songs, it works—showing Swallowed Alive doing something immensely deviant from the standard. And where Powell’s voice may start to wear on the listener (understandable after 60+ minutes), Swallowed Alive include incredible choices in guest vocalists to keep things fresh. “In the Depths,” an otherwise standard song for the above-average act, is worth mentioning for Orion Stephens’ guest segment—just as Will Ramos’ rampage on “Aether” picks the listener up and gets them through the final dregs of the release. Powell—accompanied by Ramos and Stephens—is the icing on Swallowed Alive’s cake, catchy and crushing both, making even the bland portions of Human | Nature heavy and hectic as ever.
Like it or not, however, when an album exceeds an hour in length, the band instantly runs the risk of monotony—simply because it’s damn hard to keep someone engaged for that long when listening to one band. Where Swallowed Alive are mostly successful, by the time “The Coldest Night of Winter” begins, most will probably be ready for the album to be done. Clocking in at one hour and eight minutes, Human | Nature is immense—and no amount of acrobatics pulled by Swallowed Alive can change that. For the most part, the album stays fresh during the entirety of its run-time, especially the first play through; however subsequent listens are likely to be cut short given the immense length of the release. Where it’s tough to have too much of a good thing, Swallowed Alive do come close—and even as some of the closing tracks of the release are the band’s strongest yet, perhaps cutting one or two songs would have upped the album’s replay value. Ultimately, Human | Nature will shroud the listener’s more tame sensibilities—forcing them to see nothing but red as Swallowed Alive engulf their sanity as if it were a small snack.
For Fans Of: Feign, Rex, The Acacia Strain, Lifeforms
By: Connor Welsh