Artist: A Different Breed of Killer
Album: The City
Everyone has certain bands they will always regard with fondness—bands that helped them develop their current musical tastes, introduced them to new genres and styles or simply got them through a hard point in their lives. Even while other bands from the same era might fall victim to overdue scrutiny thanks to the fading of Nostalgia’s rose hue, those artists will forever be unaffected.
For me, one of those bands happens to be deathcore juggernaut A Different Breed of Killer. Veterans (or historians) of the deathcore genre doubtlessly remember their debut full length, I, Colossus, released through Rise Records in 2008 and all of the intensity, technicality and heaviness it bore. Nearly ten years later, the band’s follow-up release, The City, is complete—a ruthless display of devastating power and punishing aggression combined with a creative use of bounce, groove, shred and melody. While it’s hard to say what the soundtrack to nearly a decade of anticipation might be, it’s certainly a fair and safe bet that The City is damn close.
Bookended by the instrumental and atmospheric “…And Bedlam Followed” tracks, the inner workings of The City are as varied and chaotic as the name may suggest. A Different Breed of Killer’s instrumentation is a firm foundation of traditional deathcore with equal parts contemporary influence and a newfound penchant for bounce and groove. Let’s be honest—while a 2008-era full-length deathcore release would be a cool throwback for diehard fans of the genre, it would speak little to the prowess, talents and growth of the musicians within the band itself. At its core, percussionist and songwriter Nija Walker is as immense as he ever was—with songs like the monstrous “MetropLIES” and “Nothing Ever Lasts” serving as testaments to his speed and intensity, while the more mellow “Bedlam” two-part and “Cacophonous Dreams” see his more jazz-and-post-rock influences shining through, contrasting metallic fills and punchy patterns with mellow moments and serene, minimalist structure. Walker is a warrior behind the kit—spending heavier songs working with bassist Louie Thal to create lurid, grisly low ends that serve as a sinister basis for bone-grinding breakdowns—while the bold, bouncy “The Devouring Storm” and “The Gunpowder, Treason and Plot” see Thal leading the charge, working excellently with guitarists Ethan Brown and Trevor McKee to obliterate the listener in a maelstrom of riff-and-groove driven fury. Brown and McKee are figurative jacks-of-all-trades, able with aggressive and lacerating leads that morph into skin-shredding moments of tediously technical terror (“The Ascension (Red Waves)”) just as they excel at eviscerating and intense breakdowns (“Return of a Titan”). Together, the duo riff, groove and chug their way right through the listener’s skull—even with the mellow and moody instrumental tracks that pepper The City.
Vocally, A Different Breed of Killer are lead by Kevin Bivins—a name which should be, again, old hat to those with heavy music tenure. With a sprawling Curriculum Vitae ranging from hip-hop to relentless heaviness, Bivins is no stranger to creating dark and malicious songs even more so. The City sees Bivins’ range second-to-none, rife with bitter, burly low bellows and shrill, piercing screeches—even assisted by guitarist McKee throughout the release—to give fans of variety no shortage from which to choose. “Infection_Rejection” is an immense song highlighting Bivins’ talents—just as “MetropoLIES” and “The Dark Below” do, with moments putting Bivins’ bellows as low and lurid as Satan’s. Meanwhile, “Nothing Ever Lasts” sees Bivins’ lyrics and vocals at their most intelligible, creating a scintillating storm of syllables that snares the listener’s ears and keeps them entranced. Bivins’ work, vocally, does A Different Breed of Killer justice—even if, at the end of The City, the listener might wish they’d have heard just a little more from him.
A Different Breed of Killer were one of the very first deathcore bands I saw live, in a tiny “venue” with 20 other people in the thick of a dense Michigan winter. There’s a lot I still remember about that night even a decade and probably over one hundred shows later—so, A Different Breed of Killer were and will always be a band I hold in high regard and find myself thoroughly fan-boying over. That doesn’t change with the magnificence that is The City—not by a long shot—but that doesn’t make the album perfect. The most obvious and glaring issue with A Different Breed of Killer’s triumphant return is logistical as opposed to talent-based: out of twelve tracks and about 45 minutes duration, four of the songs are instrumental, adding up to ten minutes of the album’s overall runtime. While “Inexorable” is an excellent track that doesn’t sound dissimilar to Within the Ruins’ “Ataxia” cuts, the other three are relatively homogenous, serving more to shatter the flow of the release rather than aid it. Is it a real “problem”? No, not really, but it does make the listener feel ever so slightly short-changed—or at least listeners who have been looking forward to this release as much as I have.
In the end, The City is more than strong—a truly marvelous and sprawling release that combines elements of technical death metal, deathcore and darker, more atmospheric touches into the mix to create a diverse and dome-splitting release. With maybe just a little too much time spent dwelling in the ethereal, A Different Breed of Killer prove they can grow and change with the times without sacrificing the core of their essence—another impeccable testament to the bold and brave return of deathcore as we know and love it.
For Fans Of: Knives Exchanging Hands, Cholera, Misericordiam, Oceano, Whitechapel
By: Connor Welsh