REVIEW: Animal – Instinct [EP/2014]


Artist: Animal

Album: Instinct – EP


The only light in the room shimmers through slits in the window shades; outside, traffic bustles and the nightlife thrives. Three years ago, you would have been out there, with them—enjoying life—but now, you’re only comfortable alone: the mere thought of others turns your stomach upside down and plants seeds of disgust, misanthropy and murderous thoughts in your head. Once, you were a man—now, you’re more of an animal than anything else. The debut EP by New York’s nihilistic metalcore act Animal tells that story—as Instinct is a collection of tracks that put the most depraved and destructive parts of the human psyche on display. Combining gut-wrenching, twisty-turny grooves, boatloads of brutalizing, straightforward aggression and perverse, punishing lyrical themes, Animal stay true to their name, turning the listener in a blood-thirsty, flesh craving maniac by the time the first full track has run its course.

The first time you ever took a life was an accident—you never meant to let your anger take control, or let the things she said get to you. You really only meant to scare her, but before long, your hands were tightening around her throat, and you yearned to feel the walls of her windpipe give way; to feel the sharp crack of her neck giving way under the strength of your grasp. Your hate, anger and energy simply took control—that is the very same energy that drives Animal’s dark, dismal take on metalcore. Percussionist Nick Manzella is a monster—his patterns are as diverse as they are atypical, straying from quick blast beats, and rolling double kick drum, instead opting for bizarre, jagged-sounding drum patterns that catch the listener’s ear almost immediately. From the first snare hit of “Blank”—a hit that pangs as sharply as a splintering bone—Manzella is a constant source of bouncy, groovy drumming that refuses to submit a single standard or style. Where “Blank” feels markedly jumpier and catchier than Instinct’s other tracks, “Guilty” is punchy and straightforward, splitting the listener’s skull with sharp snare hits and splashy, cutting cymbals. However, even during the most fluid moments of “Blank,” or the quick tempo of “Worthless,” Manzella is always given an extra layer of thick, dense thud by Brandon Jared’s deep, grimy bass grooves. Jared plays in perfect candor with Manzella’s thumping kick drum in order to make every back-busting breakdown and skin-shredding riff sound meatier and more intense—not to say that either guitarists Jonathon Folino or Anthony Salvaggio lack intensity. Folino and Salvaggio provide a constant battery of furiously-fretted riffs or lobotomizing chugs that give Instinct its murderous atmosphere. Take the EP’s most intense track, “Dark Room” for example. “Dark Room” sees Folino and Salvaggio using both eerie, atmospheric guitar work and crushing, chug-laden brutality in dialectic mastery in order to scare the listener shitless shortly before taking an instrumental scalpel to their skin—and sensibilities.

While the first kill was an accident, the others…well, they were anything but. With every twist of the knife and stripe of flesh you drew from your victims, the more your mind descended into darkness. The only happiness you could find was buried in the mounds of flesh and rivers of blood that became your friends and family—before long, you were alone, kept company only by the echoing screams of your victims. These screams are akin to the haunting, maniacal vocal style utilized by Sean Loucks. Where Animal’s instrumentation is frantic, energetic and rarely atmospheric, every syllable Loucks lets loose with is pure insanity. From the first ear-shredding scream in “Blank,” the listener is subjected to tales of torture and torment from the constant shrill half-shriek half-yell that Loucks has mastered. Herein lies the most polarizing aspect of Instinct. Where any fan of intense, driving and occasionally down-tempo heavy music will enjoy the band’s musicianship, Loucks’ bizarre vocal style will illicit an almost-immediate love-it-or-hate-it response, making it simply a matter of personal taste—where I thoroughly enjoy it, there are many who will be put off by it, especially at first. However, the intense and dramatic delivery of his twisted, sociopathic (and homicidal) lyrical content is something that must be admired—whether you’re a fan of his screams and shouts or not.

You’ve either assassinated or alienated yourself from everyone in your past—every smiling face and warm embrace that used to define your day-to-day life is gone. You’re left quarantined by your own unquenchable thirst for carnage; a victim of your own twisted mind and sick intensity—because if there is one thing Instinct has in spades, it’s intensity. Animal do everything they do the fullest to provide the listener with a completely immersive exploration into the mind of a murderous wretch. While it is engaging and energetic, it is also brief—positive in the sense that it prevents monotony, but negative in the sense that is doesn’t give the listener much material to find a true escape in. However, the sixteen minutes of sinister mayhem Animal do provide is some of the most manic and schizophrenic insanity 2014 has to offer. Even with Loucks’ hit-or-miss vocal style and the relatively short run time, Instinct is a creative and (for repetition’s sake) intense experience that will grab the listener by their ears and refuse to let them go.

In the deepest part of your heart, you hope you get caught—to be confined in a ten-by-ten prison cell with solid walls and a single window. Just you and your crimes, the voices of the innocent people you made into ghosts. Because if the screams and shouts of your victims—Animal’s Instinct—was the soundtrack to your descent into insanity, perhaps losing your mind wouldn’t be so bad.



For Fans Of: Villains, Sworn In, Victims, Volition

By: Connor Welsh