Artist: The Last Ten Seconds of Life
Album: The Violent Sound
Ever since their inception, Pennsylvanian publishers The Last Ten Seconds of Life have had a sound as distinct as their name. Be it on the belligerent and straightforward Warpath EP, their debut full length effort Know Your Exits, the groovy, catchy and punchy Invivo [Exvivo] or, last but certainly not least, Soulless Hymns, which took 2015 by storm—the point is simple, The Last Ten Seconds of Life have always had a sound that is distinctly theirs. So when they announced a new album right on the heels of Soulless Hymns featuring a relatively revised lineup, listeners were both excited and skeptical.
Rest assured, if it’s a unique, one-of-a-kind heavy music experience you’re after, The Last Ten certainly provide it with The Violent Sound. However, fans expecting a “Soulless Hymns 2.0” better abandon that notion immediately—as he band’s Siege Records debut is absolutely like nothing the listener has ever heard before—be it by these Mansfield Mauraders or from any other conventional “-core” band. Equal parts ruthless, straight-for-the-throat deathcore, nu-metal infused hardcore and heavy, gloomy southern-tinged sludge, The Violent Sound is many things—violent, yes—but also inventive, catchy and crushing.
“Are you trying to tell me that The Last Ten Seconds of Life aren’t heavy anymore?!” The frantic and skeptical listener may ask. No, rest assured, songs like “Casanova” and “Bag of Bones” will still send even the most hardened fans of heavy music running to their mommies—but those are only small brush strokes in the bigger picture that is The Violent Sound. While still ruthless from start to finish, there is more to The Last Ten’s dynamic than downtuned riffs and mountains of monotonous chugging. Percussionist Christian Fisher is as energetic as he ever was–in fact, even more so—as songs like “Bag of Bones” see him amplifying and intensifying his speed and technicality, while catchier and less outright aggressive songs like “Little Black Line” see him moving at a slightly more moderate pace, incorporating a hefty, thick bounce into his playing that is amplified tenfold by bassist Mike Menocker (who some may know from New York band Towers). Together, Fisher and Menocker are merciless, providing a lurid, gritty low end that crawls in the listener’s head and spews filth and tripe, painting the entire inside of their skull a dark, lightless black. While the low end on “heavy ballads” like “Little Black Line” is still low and raunchy (as are the grooves and drum lines on “Casanova” and “Bloodlust,” sans any sense of ethereality), it’s Wyatt McLaughlin’s lacerating guitar that sees the most marked instrumental departure from the band’s previous works. While still featuring the intangible and distinct tone that—in my mind—made Soulless Hymns, his fretwork Is home to a sharp kick of southern-inspired sludge-meets-straight-up-rock-and-roll. “Little Black Line,” again, shows this off excellently–as does “Bag of Bones” and “The Violent Sound,” both of which bring riffs—both heavy and catchy—by the boatload. McLaughlin catches the listener off guard right from the opening seconds of The Violent Sound—a sensation that lasts for the album’s duration.
To speak of being caught off guard is to define almost the entirety of The Violent Sound—but especially the opening seconds. I believe I speak for a great majority of The Last Ten Seconds of Life’s sprawling fan base when I say I would have never expected the first words (or any words) on one of their albums to be cleanly sung. However, at the onset of the opening track, “Little Black Line,” that’s exactly what the listener gets—a few seconds of softly crooned misdirection before frontman John Robert C descends into roars that drop into grisly, gut wrenching bellows. Assisted by guitarist McLaughlin, Robert dominates throughout the entirety of The Violent Sound, combining off the wall clean vocal harmonies that sound like Manson-meets-Mastodon with harsh vocals that instantly alleviate any longing for the band’s former frontman’s distinct voice. Gritty, girthy tracks like “Bag of Bones” or “Switch” see Robert combining catchiness and crushing, awe-inspiring aggression in almost equal parts, just as “Casanova” appeals more heartily to fans of the band’s back catalogue and “Little Black Line” is a more adventurous display of The Last Ten’s newfound dynamic. The Violent Sound may seem a little scattered and “all over the place,” but in reality, with a couple repeated listens, the listener begins to get the lay of the land as Robert and McLaughlin wind their way deep inside the listener’s skull, staying stuck there indefinitely.
This is where things get a little tough; actually summarizing the album. I could spend another two paragraphs attempting to capture the ways in which The Last Ten Seconds of Life have leapt outside their figurative “box” (pun intended), but I still wouldn’t begin to get close to capturing the haunting-but-heavy nature of the record. The Violent Sound—like Soulless Hymns has an intangible element to it that makes it captivating; but unlike Soulless Hymns, this intangible element isn’t simply build around earth-splitting heaviness. Fear not—“Bloodlust,” “Switch” and “Casanova” still hold down the band’s penchant for punishment—but “Little Black Line” and “The Violent Sound” are different animals altogether, which, like the album itself, will swallow the listener whole if they let it.
For Fans Of: Traitors, Circuit of Suns, Oceano
By: Connor Welsh