Album: The Unbearable Form – EP
The word Cell has several meanings, but the two most commonly used fit the Oklahoman ultra-heavyweight band of the same name strangely well. First and foremost, there’s the use of “cell” as a biological term—the smallest structural unit of living matter, and essential for the declaration of an object as “living.” The second is, well, a cell—a presumably small, confined structure for detainment or imprisonment.
Now you’re probably asking “okay, yeah, sure, but how does this have anything to do with breakdowns?” Well, these two definitions suit Cell (the band, keep up) well because on one hand, the band is beyond rugged, intimidating and oppressive—the same way staring down a life sentence in a 6 x 6 brick-and-mortar, no-window, shit-stained-cot would be intimidating and oppressive. Their music bewilders and pummels the listener into submission, breaking them to the band’s will—but at the same time, Cell is the foundation for the modern future of heavy music, a building block; the same way a biologic cell is considered the building block of life. The band blend atmosphere and aggression in a beautiful, dialectic synthesis in a fashion that is hardly ever seen of bands—let along young ones—and creates something on The Unbearable Form that ought to serve as a bastion and model for bands to turn into a template. In brief, Cell’s breakout EP is a marvelous, malevolent and misanthropic journey that is bewildering, brutalizing and beautiful in its approach to aggression.
The Unbearable Form is, above all else, a carefully executed lesson in barbaric aggression. From the first decimating notes of “The Heavens Hear Nothing,” the listener is swarmed with immolating percussion and dizzying dissonance. Drummer Joe Pelletier is a machine, capable of shredding flesh with mechanical precision using lacerating blast beats and bludgeoning the listener with brute force speed and intensity during jarring breakdowns with equal expertise. “Beneath the Surface” highlights this brilliantly, bringing to light Cell’s ability to oppress the listener with steamrolling percussion. Alongside Pelletier’s pummeling percussion is Ernie Calderon’s crushing bass, bringing a rumbling low end to The Unbearable Form’s nearly unbearably heavy slams and breakdowns. Calderon, while not necessarily taking center stage, is an essential glue to Cell’s cohesive dynamic of devastating slam-turned-beatdown-turned-deathcore. He is able to take the speed and intensity of Pelletier’s percussion and tie it in excellently with the grooves and chugs provided by riffsmiths Matt Klein and Tyk Kill. Klein and Kill—which sounds like the world’s most evil law group—are so much of what makes The Unbearable Form both ruthless and riveting in its uniqueness. Songs like “Beneath the Surface” and “Bleed All I’ve Known” are pure bruisers—however closing cut “The Unbearable Form” begins ominously and weaves a thread of atmosphere and brooding ambience throughout the song, making it not only a stand-out track, but an excellent choice to bring the sweltering EP to a close. While the entire release stands at a modest twelve minutes, between the variety of means through which the listener is utterly obliterated by the colossal riffs, breakdowns and slam segments crafted by Klein and Kill means there is an entire cornucopia of aggression for the listener to get lost within.
Cell’s vocal approach, even when compared with the already-impressive instrumental dynamic, however, is a whole different animal. Frontman Skyler Conder (supported by Klein and Kill) is nothing short of vicious for the entirety of The Unbearable Form. From the scathing howls that highlight the “The Heavens Hear Nothing” through the nearly catchy patterns and candor in “A Light (Shine for My Existence),” Conder’s deep, dense bark incites the listener with equal parts rage and adrenaline, truly capitalizing off of the riveting, unrelenting tone set by the instrumental soundscape abound on the EP. The record’s title track—and also closing track—continues to see Conder’s grisly, low register intertwine with the atmospheric elements that serve as a subtle backdrop in the breaks between traumatic chugs and skin-rending percussion, cementing his dynamism despite a modest range of mid-to-lower range shouts and bellows.
The Unbearable Form is far from unbearable (had to get that out of the way); it is an immolating monument to contemporary heavy music that honors elements of brutal death metal, hardcore, mid-2000s metalcore, traditional deathcore and more. To pidgeonhole it in any one of those genres feels short-sighted—which is why I’ve hesitated so much at assigning it a fixed genre throughout this article. At the end of the day, The Unbearable Form simply is; it is a dose of pure, raunchy ruthlessness that is as riveting as it is relentless from the moment the listener hits play to the second the EP concludes.
For Fans Of: Psycho-Frame, PeelingFlesh, Extortionist, The Acacia Strain, No Cure
By: Connor Welsh