Artist: The Pale Sky
When one considers the origins of man—the most complex species to inhabit this planet—one must examine the roots from which mankind’s complex tree has sprung forth. In a heyday of technological innovation, mathematic development and cognitive creativity, it must not be forgotten that we, as humans, were once unthinking, unfeeling brutes—that is to say, we were once Neanderthals. This is where the debut full length by Indianan innovators The Pale Sky truly represents the marvels of modern man. Combining the creativity and cognitive superiority of the 21st century with the primitive penchant for brute force our ancestors were known for, Neanderthal is engaging, hard-hitting and immersive from start to finish, practically defining the next step in deathcore’s evolution.
Instrumentally, The Pale Sky tread the tightrope between chug-friendly, hard-hitting hardcore and technically impervious death metal with a confident gait. “Black Lines” shows percussionist Robbie Madden unleashing Hell, opening the track with punchy, deep grooves that rapidly morph into marvelously technical patterns that rely on lightning-quick footwork and creative, bouncy fills—brilliantly bridging the band’s hardcore and metallic influences. The same is done on “Counterfeit,” where Madden sprinkles blistering blast beats between segments of neck-snapping groove to keep the listener guessing. Guitarists Robbie Valdez and Nate Chandler take a similar approach—using guitar solos that scream death metal on “Counterfeit,” even as they are placed between dissonant, demoralizing breakdowns that smash the listener’s skull as if it were an egg shell. Chandler and Valdez shine just as brightly on the dynamic “Demoralizer,” which uses hair-raising effects and furious fretwork to wage an all-out war on the listener—recruiting magnificent raunchy, low-down-and-dirty percussion from Madden in the process. Neanderthal is a carefully crafted combination of aggression and innovation designed to attract fans of everything from headstrong hardcore to devastating death metal with equal appeal.
If The Pale Sky’s instrumental efforts are varied, then their vocals are erratic—in the best way possible. Gordon Philpot’s range is, simply put, perfect. There is no figurative stone left unturned, as Philpot uses filthy, guttural lows aside sky-scraping screeches with what sounds like no effort. “Aggressive Depravation” opens with an eviscerating, unintelligible gurgle that steadily works its way up through Philpot’s all-inclusive range until it’s a shriek so shrill the listener can practically feel the stretch and strain on Philpot’s vocal cords. This is true of every tone and style employed throughout Neanderthal on every track; Philpot is tireless in delivering an immense, diverse vocal performance which is second to none: whether he is emulating a gruff, mid-range shout or either end of his extreme range, he is at the top of his game, easily reaching corners of the vocal domain that most deathcore vocalists could only dream of hitting.
The Pale Sky’s combination of death metal and hardcore—including elements of thrash and technicality—has it all. “Engraving the Flesh” is shred-friendly and intense—as is the solo found in “Counterfeit.” However, while there are segments of stellar shred and surreal slips of technicality, there are moments where Neanderthal is both crushing and catchy. Specifically, “Aggressive Depravation” opens and closes with a breakdown featuring foot-and-fill work from Madden that will simply get caught in the listener’s head on repeat—busting fresh cracks into their skull with every time it plays. Equal parts technically terrific and murderously heavy, Neanderthal is one of the first deathcore releases that is truly all inclusive, carefully balancing all of The Pale Sky’s influences and styles in a manner that is sure to please any fan of heavy music.
If you skipped your high school lecture on evolution, let The Pale Sky educate you. Neanderthal is a perfect example of the next step in deathcore’s refinement, beautifully blending immersive technicality, dynamic song structure and brutalizing heaviness without feeling dense or congested—in short, Darwin would be proud.
For Fans Of: Whitechapel, Oceano, Thy Art Is Murder, Grimus
By: Connor Welsh