REVIEW: Second Death – Casket [2017]

Artist: Second Death

Album: Casket


Your friends and family gather around. Every acquaintance you’ve made and maintained—every relationship you’ve fostered past a scant “hi,” every woman you loved, your awkward roommate from your first year of college—they’re all here, assembled in a morose semi-circle around your funeral plot. The sky is overcast—grey, and unremarkable—with a breeze that raises the hairs on the exposed necks and backs of hands for all those in attendance.

They lower you into the ground. One shovelful of dirt thuds atop your coffin. Then another. And another.

This is your funeral; but what isn’t readily apparent is that, you aren’t dead…at least not permanently.

Dramatic though it is, this is the story of Georgian gritty, gruesome and groovy metalcore act Second Death, and their debut release, Casket. Risen from the grave of their previous name, Beware the Neverending, Second Death are more than an ambling, animated corpse serving as a crude reminder of their former selves. Instead, Second Death are reinvented—reinvigorated with a ruthless, no-holds-barred groove-infused style of heavy, slightly-southern metalcore reminiscent of A Plea for Purging and A Life Once Lost rolled into one furious and filthy display of aggression. Catchy one minute and crushing the next, Casket is aptly named—not because it’s the death of the band, but because it’s the formal death of Beware the Neverending, and more importantly, lethal enough to serve as the death of the listener as well.

At the crossroads of quick, bouncy, groovy candor and oppressively heavy, downtuned and dissonant metalcore, Casket is a remarkable throwback to the heavier metalcore acts of the late 2000s in a contemporary and crushing, current and relevant context. Percussionist Giovanni Casanova makes this abundantly clear, dominating the entirety of Second Death’s debut effort (under their revised name and attitude, that is) with drumming that ranges from relentless to ruthless. “Answer” and “Claim Culture” see him doing this with energetic expertise, keeping the tempo in the band’s upper extremes without losing the listener. Meanwhile, his fleet fills and fast feet slow it down a notch on songs like “Worth” or “Malfunction,” where he works diligently with bassist Clark Gargan to create grisly, hefty patterns that batter and bruise the listener into bitter, bone-busted submission. Gargan—much like Casanova—plays double duty. On one hand, during Second Death’s faster moments, his grooves and thick basslines are fluid, a dynamic firmament keeping the percussion sounding thick and full. Meanwhile, during the album’s more brooding, dark and brutalizing moments, Gargan’s bass drops the floor out of the mix, adding a positively absurd low end to the band’s dynamic that makes every chug and thick kick drum smack feel like a punch straight to the jaw. This works to amplify the fretwork from guitarists Christian Snow and Joshua Claxton—who practically define the band’s groovy-yet-gritty metalcore sound and style. Claxton and Snow’s guitars sound like rusty chainsaws cutting through rotting flesh. From the first seconds of “Answer,” the duo’s guitar tone is oppressive to an almost intolerable level. By the time the listener gets to the end of “Worth,” it feels as if their head might just fall straight off of their neck; even with the rare moments of cleanly-played and crystalline, ethereal atmosphere on “Pendulum” and “Self-Portrait” both—scant though they may be.

The distinct, low and turbulent roar of Second Death’s sinister and deadly instrumentation is complemented by the band’s furious frontman, Josh Claxton, whose voice is low, burly and full—adding heft and stocky, solid intensity to the entire dynamic presented within Casket. “Answer” and “Claim Culture”—just as they saw the band’s more fluid and peppy instrumental aspects in top shape—see Claxton’s vocal candor equally energetic, roaring along like a jet engine—deafening, intimidating, loud, yet fast and incessant. Meanwhile, the more intense tracks that close out the album—especially his work with Kaonashi’s Peter Rono on “Worth”—see Claxton’s low growls vicious enough to rip the listener’s larynx out and induce blunt force trauma with it. Claxton’s voice, even while it bears devastating and oppressive tone and thickness, spits lyrics that are passionate and meaningful, to himself and to others. “Claim Culture” is an excellent example, as is his work with After Me the Flood’s Taylor Whiddon on “Pendulum.” Whiddon’s voice is a welcome change from Claxtopn (whose vocals, while an excellent complement to the band’s music, find themselves bordering on monotonous for portions of Casket), and the lyrics he howls are akin to those in his own band—immensely emotional and almost overwhelming at points. This isn’t to say Claxton isn’t capable of that, either; as he most certainly is, be it with the rough and callous cleanly sung portions of Casket or the otherwise brooding, bitter and derisive syllable-splitting that occurs throughout the album’s remainder.

Casket is crushing; there are a cornucopia of reasons it might be named what it is, and there are a million corny one-liners and puns I could liken it to funerals, death, or mourning (half a dozen of which I’ve already exhausted). The point is that Casket take the “Death” part of Second Death’s name and give it a finite, nearly-tangible meaning, but in the process, they also provide life and vigor—energy over the course of several songs that make Casket bustling and brutalizing with nothing but pure, raw energy. So—cliché though it is—Casket tells the story of vivacious, full, blossoming life that ends in bitter, sour and dismal darkness. It is uplifting in spirit and energy, but depressive and devastating in terms of absolute heaviness. It brings together elements of groove and grisly, gritty metalcore from the genre’s annals and combines it with a contemporary twist that positively begs to be heard.



For Fans Of: A Life Once Lost, A Plea for Purging, Counterparts, Like Moths to Flames

By: Connor Welsh