Album: Societal Lobotomisation – Split EP
Of all the genres in all the world (or at least the world of heavy music), few—if any—have as many comical tropes and inherent cringe-worthy nuances as slam (or slamming brutal death metal). Despite this, the genre and its many adaptations have grown enormously over the last several years, embracing the tropes and jokes and internalizing them pushing farther into different extremes to further solidify the genre’s niche in the current wheelhouse of heavy music. These directions—the different styles that slam and its compatriots have to offer—vary tremendously, with many of the more contemporary and deathcore-styled acts marred (or self-proclaimed) as “fake slam.” Within these bands who have blended deathcore and metalcore into their backbone of blistering brutal metal, few names stand taller than Acrania and Vulvodynia—and while many might be quick to castigate them as “fake” by slamming standards, there is very little fakeness to be found in the fury, aggression and awe-inspiring heaviness that dwells within the two groups’ new split record, Societal Lobotomisation. Laden with lurid riffs, bone-busting breakdowns and skin-shredding slams, in four brief tracks both bands collectively step their entire game up and bring the listener what stands to be their best efforts yet.
For several years now, Acrania has been a staple in the relatively selective niche of well-executed slamming deathcore. While the band’s debut EP skyrocketed the genre into popularity within the sphere of heavy music as a whole, their follow-up efforts saw the group refining both the brutal metallic components of their sound as well as their overt traditional deathcore overtones. By the time the band’s semi-surprise comeback release, Tyrannical Hierarchy: Volume I was unleashed, the band had taken a robust backbone of contemporary, polished slamming death metal and added enough deathcore to keep their songs diverse and widely appealing (all without sacrificing the relentless, abrasive heaviness that earned their following in the first place). On Societal Lobotomisation, listeners get their first glimpse into the band’s next sonic evolution—and in short, it slaps. “Guillotine Necktie” stands as their catchiest offering since “A Delusion in a Discordant System,” with Luke Griffin’s infamous vocal range taking center stage. Here, the band are fast, with everything hitting hard and without any shred of relent. Likewise, “Legions of the Unenlightened” sees the band work more openly with hints of haunting atmosphere, using large, looming riffs overtop segments of dreary, droning melancholy before walloping the listener back into submission with spine-shattering slam-tinted breakdowns. In two songs, Acrania offer the listener not only a renewed focus on Griffin’s trademarked insanely fast and intricate (while also insanely catchy) vocal cadence and range, but additionally closer attention to song structure. Where Acrania previously offered nothing short of constantly crushing, break-neck and eviscerating cuts, they stand as a band prepared to offer even more. Don’t freak out—they’re still as fast and as pissed as ever—but with an extra dimension, as heard on “Legions of the Unenlightened,” where the band collectively push to be heavy in a multitude of ways, not all of them previously heard.
Vulvodynia are a band I’ve followed since their inception—and not always to great adoration. I can distinctly remember picking the group’s debut effort apart and thinking that I’d be content if I never actually listened to them again. Fast forward the better part of ten years and they stand as one of my favorite contemporary ultra-heavy bands. Where their most recent release, Mob Justice, saw them creating a schism between their “deathcore” style and their “slam” style, Societal Lobotomisation sees them consolidating their influences and embracing a more comprehensive deathcore-with-some-heavy-ass-slam aesthetic. Where Mob Justice was split, with songs seeming to fall either more distinctly in the slam or deathcore category respectively, “The Disconnect” and “Aborning Pestilence” are a more careful blend of the two—with the songs ultimately feeling more like traditional slam-influenced deathcore than they do the other way around. “The Disconnect” is, simply put, gargantuan, with everything in the track sounding larger than life, from the mammoth percussion to the sinister fretwork. Even frontman Duncan Bentley’s vocal effort feels (somehow) more crisp and precise than ever, without missing out on any of his critically acclaimed variety. Where “The Disconnect” feels, if anything, melodic (in the context of Vulvodynia’s discography), “Aborning Pestilence” is a trip through the meat grinder. Nearly five minutes of flesh-rending heaviness, “Aborning Pestilence” sees Vulvodynia’s roots come into play more so than on “The Disconnect.” Here, slams and breakdowns rule side-by-side, with mind-numbing riffs transitioning one into the other. Ultimately, both songs feels more “deathcore” than most of Vulvodynia’s previous material, but not without them paying credence to the elements of their sound that made Psychosadistic Design a hit.
Acrania and Vulvodynia are both bands that I’ve covered before—and that have made lasting marks in the heavy music scene as a whole. Not only that, but they’re both bands that have put forth their most comprehensive and engaging material to date on Societal Lobotomisation. The only true pitfall to be found is that we’re only treated with two songs from each artist. While the split itself still runs a solid twenty minutes, the four-song offering feels like an appetizer meant to lead into something much larger—and while it probably does, with at least Vulvodynia confirmed to be hard at work on another full length record, it sure isn’t coming soon enough. Ultimately, Societal Lobotomisation is an all-too-rare slice of slamming deathcore heaven that leaves the listener wishing there was just a little more content to keep them coming back to in the interim between major releases from its contributing artists.
Total Score: 9/10
For Fans Of: Within Destruction, Infant Annihilator, Ingested, Sectioned UK
By: Connor Welsh