Artist: I Shot the Sheriff
Album: Demo (2007) [EP]
Heroes are important: in times of dire need, they give people hope. In times of stagnancy, they provide movement and inspiration–progression, if you will. While “progression” might not be the first word that comes to mind when listening to Californian deathcore group, I Shot the Sheriff, the listener cannot deny the influence their 2007 demo has had on deathcore bands today–from the “greats” like Suicide Silence and Chelsea Grin to that annoying start up project that practices in your neighbor’s garage.
The year is 2007, and deathcore was in a state of turmoil. Amidst the plethora of emerging “-core” genres, deathcore was far and away the newest of them, and it’s combination of bi-polar elements made it attractive to metalheads seeking new extremes, and spin-kicking scenesters looking to gain mosh-pit badges of honor. Whether it would have any lasting impact on the scene or function as a transient shit-stain on the underpants of hardcore was (and still is) anyone’s guess. I Shot the Sheriff leapt into the fray with all guns blazing, with the mindset that in order to preserve deathcore, a no-holds-barred approach needed to be taken. Fortunately for us fans, that mindset served its purpose.
Leading the charge with immensely varied vocal styles and brutally straightforward lyrics, the 2007 Demo features elements of deathcore we all take for granted today. Quick sweeps interspersed between heavy chugging and pounding bass follow the vocals in I Shot the Sheriff’s aural stampede. Indeed, sections like the climactic breakdown in “Denouement” feel akin to being trampled by a raging rabble of rhinoceros. The drums provide a crushing, down-tempo brutal backdrop while the guitars trudge along, crushing everything in their path. While the lyrics are lacking (and often range from okay to downright terrible), the vocal delivery tops it all off with wrenching anguish and pure hate.
Admittedly, listening to I Shot the Sheriff’s demo now is underwhelming. The 2007 Demo isn’t meant to attract new listeners to the genre–not these days at least. Rather, it’s an opportunity for dedicated fans of extant deathcore giants (Thy Art is Murder, et al) to explore their roots. However, that still leaves I Shot the Sheriff sounding generic (in a genre they helped breathe life into) and lyrically abysmal (in a genre not known for lyrical prowess). These hurdles are small by their very nature, however, in broader context, they become minuscule. The listener is often too engrossed in the straightforward, break-neck brutality that the EP offers, rather than stuck getting caught in the nuances of the lyrical atrocities sparsely sprinkled throughout the release.
So while it’s easy to write off I Shot the Sheriff as “old news” and uninventive, this isn’t necessarily true. I Shot the Sheriff’s 2007 Demo influenced bands who went on to influence some of the largest names in deathcore, all the while showing remarkable promise–if they had continued, where would they be today? Were it not the vocal delivery and angry, angst laden lyrics which influenced bands like We Are the End and Thy Art is Murder, many bands tearing up local and national scenes around the world wouldn’t be…well, they wouldn’t be. So if you have Infinite Death memorized to the pinch harmonic, and can play through every We Are the End track on YouTube, then treat yourself to a bit of musical research and give I Shot the Sheriff a spin–who knows, you might even end up starting a band.
By: Connor Welsh/Eccentricism