Artist: Sever the King
It starts small—a shred of genetic code protected by a fibrous protein capsule—hardly anything noteworthy. But before long it grows, incubating in the warmth of a human host, mutating until it is a catastrophic abomination of the laughable shred of a sickness it once was. It isn’t much longer until it gains an appetite to infect and destroy, followed by the insidious molecular mechanisms it needs to do so. Spreading across entire cities in mere hours, it dwarfs diseases such as cancer and ebola—towering far above the likes of infectious illnesses mankind has seen to date. “It” is the latest release by Midland Park masters of deathcore, Sever the King. Outbreak is an album that is true to its name: born of evil and gifted with an insatiable thirst for blood and death, it is one of the most complex and crushing deathcore releases since the genre’s inception. Combining catchy grooves, touches of technicality and tidal-wave style slams of heaviness Outbreak is a plague that will sweep not just the nation, but the entire world.
Once it nestles itself in the listener’s flesh, it grows—a seed of sinister, crushing instrumentation and brilliant songwriting, given flare with flashes of intense and scalding technicality. In a word, Sever the King’s musical performance on Outbreak is impeccable. Truthfully, the hardest part of analyzing the quintet’s dynamic, diverse instrumental approach to deathcore is figuring out where to start—as the band covers so much musical territory that there isn’t one aspect of their sound that truly serves as an archetype. As is standard, the best place to begin dissecting the band’s awesome instrumentation is likely the album’s punchy, powerful percussion. No matter whether it’s the incessant speed and relentless crush of “The Charlatan,” or the low, slow and brooding atmosphere of “Voice of Sanity,” Charlie Chaparian is an absolute monster behind the kit. “The Charlatan,” as well as “Psychosis” showcase his more technical side, combining machine-gun blast beats with lengthy but languishing fills that flay the listener’s flesh clean from their bones. However, the heavier and more sinister tracks—“Aeon of Annihilation” and “Voice of Sanity” especially—see Chaparian emphasizing splashy cymbal work and deep, dissonant toms to create a doom-and-sludge influenced sense of atmosphere. Regardless of Chaparian’s speed or style, guitarists Aaron Chaparian and Zach Kerekes prove more than able to provide absolutely perfect riffs and grooves as accompaniment. Where countless deathcore bands feature nothing but boring, samey half-chugged half-tremolo picked leads, Sever the King stray from the path—as every riff, groove and breakdown is done to absolute perfection. The best part about Outbreak’s fretwork is how Kerekes and Chaparian include beautiful bits of technicality without being too over-the-top or out-of-place. The catchy, dancy riff in the opening portion of “A Display of Power” is absolutely surreal, while the eerie lead in to “Voice of Sanity” inspires frigid chills that race along the listener’s spine like frozen lightning. Best of all is the sweeping riff in “Psychosis” that lures the listener into a sublime state of hypnosis, taking complete control of their mind. Make no mistake—for every beautiful, bouncy section the two Chaparians and Kerekes create, bassist Christian Vernaza is right there with them, filling the (few, but present) moments of silence with booming, raunchy bass fills and adding a beefy, thick low end to even the most ethereal moments of atmosphere.
Before long, the infection crosses the blood-brain barrier, coursing through the listener’s meninges and filling their sulci with pure hatred. While Sever the King’s stellar instrumentation is a vicious vector, the true lethality of the infection stems from the vocals of Joey Cruz. Just as Chaparian crushes behind his drum kit, and the fretted elements are diverse and unstoppable, there is simply no style of scream, shout or bellow that Cruz isn’t capable of. His gritty, haunting mid-range shout on “Voice of Sanity” is just as haunting as Kerekes’ fretwork—and his high, screeching wails on “The Curse” feel as though Cruz is ramming an ice pick through the listener’s ear drums. Even if—somehow—the listener found something to dislike about one of Cruz’ multitude of styles, there are countless other growls, gutturals, shouts and screeches on Outbreak to make up for it. Cruz’s diversity is further aided by stellar guest appearances—most notably, former Villains vocalist Ben Miller’s shrill shouts on “Aeon of Annihilation.” The point here is simple: Cruz is a master at vocals—from the voracious, insane deathcore-tinted brees, lows and highs to his visceral, hardcore mid-range shout. There is so much to love about Outbreak’s native vocalist that the additions on “Aeon of Annihilation” and “A Display of Power” are bonuses, not needed in the slightest.
Gnashing, hammering instrumentation serving as a vector for insidious, hate-filled and horrifyingly intense vocals: the blueprint for Sever the King’s infection of deathcore worldwide. Without a doubt, Outbreak is one of the sturdiest and most varied offerings the genre has seen in years. While the band’s debut full length, Traitor, was powerful, lurid and practically the definition of heavy, Outbreak is a whole different species of violence. With moments of raw brutality that make Traitor appear juvenile, accompanied with a newfound respect for dynamic songwriting and intriguing instrumentation, Outbreak is several cuts above even the deepest slices Sever the King fans might have endured in the past. Every track—rather, every solitary second—of Outbreak’s nearly 42-minute long runtime is unique and immersive. From the harrowing introduction to the album’s title track, to the pinnacle of suffering and brutality that is the climactic breakdown of “Thanatos,” Outbreak is simply immense. There is no other word to describe the impact this release will have on the shape of deathcore to come.
Humanity as we know it will cease to exist. Cities shall be reduced to ash and rubble. Cultures will fall by the wayside, as those who survive wish they didn’t. Sever the King’s Outbreak is a pathogen that will leave nothing in its wake—it is a pandemic the likes of which deathcore has never before seen.
For Fans Of: Oceano, Thy Art is Murder, Bermuda, The Acacia Strain, Within the Ruins
By: Connor Welsh