Album: MMXIV – EP
Everyone has an endgame—a goal, a target, a finish line—a figurative “Everest” they want to tackle in their lives. Appropriately enough, even these fleeting, figurative Everests are not without a climax: a point at which the worst is over, and the only thing left is the sweet satisfaction of rolling downhill. This is the Apex, the pinnacle of human satisfaction—and it can be found in just about any aspect of life. Whether your Everest takes years to overcome or mere minutes, big or small, mundane or magnificent, the rush of pure, unbridled satisfaction from reaching your goal is exactly what drives you—and mankind—to progress in the first place. This is undoubtedly true of Cincinnati-based crushers Apex, who manage to climb the daunting, ambitious mountain of chaotic deathcore with the four short tracks that comprise their debut EP, MMXIV. Apex take the listener on a journey through atmosphere and aggression in a manner that can only truly be described as immersive, as MMXIV is an all-inclusive display of passion, perseverance and punishing heaviness that simply begs to be experienced.
The ascent begins with a rush—the desire to embark headlong at your target and reach it in record time. No obstacle is too large, nor speed too fast, you will succeed and be home in time for dinner, damnit. This is the tone “Mortifier” sets for MMXIV, as it commences with a blood-rush inducing roar and machine-gun blast beats that tear holes through the listener’s eardrums. Pummeling, relentless percussion drives “Mortifier,” and indeed the duration of the EP along, as if it were a 500-horsepower bulldozer, taking no time to slow down and flattening everything in its path. The drums remain remorseless and powerful throughout the release—colorful and splashy during sections of “1606” and “Lacuna” where they need to be, but bouncy and raunchy during even the heaviest portions of “Nonentity” and “Lacuna.” Overtop race the rollicking, insane strings—all four sets of them. Bassist Adam Montgomery provides a low, rolling and groovy low-end to compliment the beasty battery of intense, carnivorous kick drum; especially throughout the dynamic adventure that is “1606.” Meanwhile, guitarists Zach Sebastian and Nick Millson battle for string supremacy; a war that makes the Battle of the Bulge look like child’s play. This technically impervious onslaught of furious fretwork is part of what makes MMXIV a true display of chaotic deathcore—best seen in…well, every track. “Mortifier” especially is home to a wondrous mash of catchy riffs, grimy grooves and bone-busting brutality that completely encompass everything from The Dillinger Escape Plan-style technicality and confusion to The Acacia Strain-esque aggression.
But before long, the seemingly endless well of energy driving your quest dries up. Each step gets harder—every footfall heavier—until you find yourself just barely trudging up this murderous, man-made monolith of aspiration and hope. If this sounds familiar, its because it’s exactly what happens when the listener hits the brick wall that is the emotional, engrossing juggernaut, “1606.” With immense and unstoppable riffing from Millson and Montgomery, and booming, deep bass from Montgomery, the instrumentation forms a sprawling canvas—a perfect easel for vocalist Billy Blanton to spew his anger, aggression, and introspective angst upon. While Blanton’s vocal performance is top notch throughout the entire EP, “1606” is a track where his lyrical content turns inwards and is even more personal than the others on MMXIV. This, however, isn’t to sully the sheer magnitude of his presence at the helm of Apex’s towering juggernaut of a dynamic. Each song is home to shouts, bellows, screams and growls that strike fear into the heart of the listener, digging nails-deep into their skin and tearing handful after handful of flesh in the process. In a word, Blanton is crucial to the success of Apex’s MMXIV because his vocal efforts bring an emotive, human aspect to the band’s intense instrumentals in a manner which beautifully fits the maelstrom of chaos and fury that serves as their backdrop.
But Apex—and the listener—push through. Relentless to the last drop of sweat and blood cell they have to give, Apex are determined to succeed, and, before long, they do. By the time “Nonentity” draws to a close, Apex have reached the pinnacle of a tentative, prodigal mastery of spastic hardcore and crushing deathcore combined. Whether it’s the jaw-dropping tenacity of the terrifying fretwork, the boiling, churning bass guitar, skin-peeling, spine-shattering percussion or the veritable vivacity of Blanton’s vocals, MMXIV has everything it takes to push the listener through thick and thin to accomplish their goal. The magnitude of the band’s success is improved given how young and hard-working they are. True, Apex is the result of the dissolution of several veteran bands to Ohio’s heavy music scene, their dynamic is still infantile and new—not that you’d know it with the way “Mortifier” flows into “1606,” or the way in which “Lacuna” combines pure heaviness with cunning grooves and elegant song structure. At the end of the day, MMXIV is the path less traveled—the admittedly all-too-brief shortcut to musical mastery.
What will you do after you reach your apex? If it’s anything like the minds of Cincinnati’s chaotic deathcore act, the answer is simple: keep climbing. While the short run time forces the listener to play MMXIV on repeat in order to get their fill, the listener will get their fill—of perfect instrumentation and unmatched vocal prowess, that is. MMXIV is a release that sets the bar high for this young band, keeping the listener curious—what mountain can’t these guys climb?
For Fans Of: The Acacia Strain, Oceano, The Dillinger Escape Plan, The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza
By: Connor Welsh