Review: Beneath the Surface – Deservant [EP] (2012)

Artist: Beneath the Surface
Album: Deservant
Rating: 4.5/5

Metalcore, as a genre, has become easy to write off. Admittedly, when hearing descriptions of Beneath the Surface’s EP Deservant, that’s more or less exactly what I did. No matter how many times I was promised it was “heavier than you’d expect,” or “a must-listen,” I just sort of shrugged and responded, “Eh, another metalcore album. I’ll get around to it.” 

As it turns out, I was a fool to have waited and slept on this release for so long. The sophomore studio release from the talented Phoenix quintet is like a castle of wax built on a solid metalcore foundation, however, when ignited, it burns and melts over into heavier, deathcore territory and in-your-face hardcore beatdown territory alike. This dynamic aspect makes Deservant a brief, multifaceted release which provides something for everyone without becoming monotonous.

Deservant kicks off with a haunting, brutal breakdown–something which shouldn’t be terribly unfamiliar for fans of any of the genres the band is influenced by. While much of the instrumentation is standard fare, the guttural vocals and high production values keep it interesting. In addition to the outstanding job done mixing each track (The opening track “Final Declaration” being the best example), there is a stellar use of recurring themes–be it an intriguing riff or lyrical concept. Lyrically, while the album isn’t a compendium of Pulitzer-prize winning work, it’s written clearly and interestingly to match the beatdown tendencies of the band. Recurring lines akin to “Final Declaration’s” “You want salvation, but you don’t want the truth” are yelled in a straightforward and understandable manner to accent the skull-smashing nature of the music around it. Additionally, when the guitars take a more riff-laden turn and the drums begin to kick out blast beats, the vocals either sink to piercing highs or unintelligible lows, which not only sound fantastic, but let the instrumentation shine.

The highest points of the album don’t come just when the guitar becomes centrifugal or when the vocals are understandable, but when all the elements of the band work together and harmonize. “Conscience” showcases this, and the EP at it’s highest point. While one guitar harmonizes with the bass and the drums in a town-tuned, spine-shattering chug, the other guitar soars high using an intricate riff to surround the vocals and the other instruments like gift-wrapping on a present–a present which disguises a brutalizing bomb of a breakdown or bridge leading into the next maelstrom-laden segment of the track. In this manner, “Conscience” moves along delivering pulverizing hit after pulverizing hit, much like each track of the Deservant leaves the listener bloodied and battered.

There’s a lot more to Beneath the Surface than what I had expected–certainly more than just an average metalcore release. Whether Deservant is a deathcore EP with touches of metalcore, or a filth-laden metalcore release with touches of deathcore (or perhaps “filth” would just be a better categorization for the band to begin with) doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Deservant stands out and deserves to be enjoyed just as much, if not more so, than its contemporary, brutal peers.

By Connor Welsh/Eccentricism

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