Turn on your TV. Go on Facebook or Twitter and start scrolling. Hell, look outside your window—and ask yourself, what do you really see? If you’re being honest with yourself (and there’s no reason not to be), what you see is a world on the precipice of severe decay. Social order is crumbling at an alarming rate—violence is sweeping the streets and the ones we trust to stop it are doing everything but. Innocent men and women are being slaughtered over things as petty as the color of their skin or their religious beliefs—so even if you don’t believe in God, it’s hard to argue that the world has become a truly unholy place.
Which means that when Immoralist claim to be influenced by everything that’s wrong with the world and the shitty people living in it, there is no shortage to where they can draw inspiration—and with their debut full length record Unholy, it shows.
To say that Unholy is long-awaited might be the biggest understatement in all of 2016. Since Immoralist’s groundbreaking debut EP, the heavy music community has been anxiously awaiting a follow-up record from the group—and while the singles “Rotten Teeth” and “Nails” were excellent in their own right, they did little to quench the collective thirst of those who adore all things heavy—and Immoralist have been silent about it until recently. Unholy is a diverse and devastating record, showcasing Immoralist drawing from a sprawling array of influences and styles to create a record that is comprehensively crushing. Using beatdown hardcore, black metal, doom metal and of course, deathcore, as ingredients to Unholy, Immoralist have crafted a chart-topping, album-of-the-year contender that is easily worth the lofty three-year wait.
Unholy is a collective instrumental effort by Immoralist’s three members—guitarist and songwriter Cameron Marygold, songwriter and vocalist Davis Rider and guitarist Kody Davis. Together, this trio forged a cast-iron, crushing display of hard-hitting instrumental intensity. Marygold and Davis—Marygold especially—fill just about every track with a sprawling variety of punishing percussion and scathing fretwork. From the ten-ton introduction “Hell on Earth,” through the blackened display of furious fretwork in “Upon His Horns” (courtesy of Lorna Shore’s Adam DeMicco) to the beatdown-infused “Fuck It Up” and all the way through the haunting conclusion “Anthology,” Marygold and Davis absolutely dominate the listener’s ears, letting nothing else but devastating aggression inside. Where Unholy is undoubtedly heavy, what is truly incredible about the album is the diverse array of deathcore and metallic stylings prevalent throughout the release. “Nails [III]” and “Upon His Horns” see Immoralist doing much more than just chug and groove—as both tracks feature dynamic riffs, eerie leads and spacious atmosphere for the listener to get lost in, with the latter of the two especially pulling stunts from blackened death metal’s playbook. Meanwhile, Marygold and Davis let their more hardcore-friendly sides shine through on “Fuck It Up” (a short-but-scathing display of bitterness) and “Rotten Teeth,” using simpler drum patterns and relatively straightforward fretwork to obliterate the listener. Finally, songs like “World Cleaver,” “Severed Tongues,” “Marked Ones” and “Zero Absolution” showcase the band’s raw, unfiltered deathcore stylings—with “Marked Ones” making beautiful use of Alex Terrible’s guest appearance to provide a skin-peeling, organic and traditional deathcore sound.
Where Immoralist’s instrumentation is varied in its levels of animosity and aggression, the band’s vocal effort is positively uncompromising. Frontman Davis Rider—who truly needs no introduction–is accompanied by a who’s-who of heavy music’s hottest voices to give listeners one of the most eviscerating and diverse vocal dynamics since xKingx’s debut full-length (which also saw Marygold behind the helm). Between Marygold’s reputation as xKingx’s songwriter and Rider’s reputation for guest appearances on other big-name bands’ music, Unholy’s star-studded cast is no surprise—but what is shocking is how superfluous these voices end up being. Rider’s vocals throughout Unholy are top notch from start to finish—with the re-recorded “Nails,” “Slumlord” and “Rotten Teeth” being the best examples of this. Here, the listener can truly compare and contrast Rider’s growth—and then apply it to his picture perfect vocals and equally talented lyricism in songs like “World Cleaver.” Where some of his lyrics may come across as just a little corny (hardcore-influenced anthem “Fuck It Up” is exemplary of this), his confidence makes it a non-issue, absolutely knocking every syllable he shouts out of the park. A product of a sprawling range, endless energy and engaging lyricism, Rider’s work alone on Unholy is enough to make it a top-ten album—and that’s before considering that the guest vocals in “Unholy,” “Marked Ones” and “Zero Absolution” are some of the best uses of guest vocalists the genre has ever seen.
Unholy leaps to life with “Hell on Earth” and truly doesn’t slow down until the closing seconds of “Anthology.” Even the mellow (but creepy) interludes “Open Casket” and “Closed Casket” barely give the listener a rest. Instead, they just play up the intensity of every other trackMarygold and Rider have written. “Nails,” even as a stellar single, sounds even better in its re-done form—and the same can be said for the other two revised songs on Unholy. Immoralist have something for everyone within the fifteen-track and nearly hour-long album. Those looking for riffs sharp enough to shred diamonds need look no further than “Upon His Horns,” in all of it’s densely-packed and furiously-fretted glory. If you want classic hardcore-infused deathcore vibes, “Fuck It Up” and “Rotten Teeth” have them in spades. Meanwhile, “Marked Ones” does traditional deathcore better than the new releases by both Whitechapel and Despised Icon—something few people would have bet on. Finally, if you want a reminder of why Immoralist do it better than just about any other deathcore act out there, give “Unholy,” “Nails” or “World Cleaver” a spin—in fact, hell, if you like any kind of heavy music at all, you owe it to yourself to purchase Immoralist’s triumphant return. Anything else would be simply Unholy.
For Fans Of: Oceano, Whitechapel, Traitors, Slaughter to Prevail, Extortionist, Black Tongue
By: Connor Welsh