Album: Dead Youth – EP
When did you realize you were no longer a “child”? Was it as simple as turning eighteen and being held legally responsible for your actions? Was it getting your license? Maybe when you lost your virginity—or hell, maybe much much earlier. Maybe you lost a parent, had to step up and become the man of the house even without a hair on your chin or calluses on your hands.
The point is this: there’s a time where everyone bids farewell to their youth as they become baptized—steeped head-first—into the cold, bitter and lonely reality of adulthood. But we don’t hold a funeral for it—there is no ceremony that captures the grief and bitterness of bidding a cold riddance to the younger and more innocent version of your self. If there was, the dreary, energetic and pummeling nature of Pennsylvanian metalcore act Deathbed would orchestrate the funeral dirge in six parts—their latest EP, Dead Youth. Aptly named and loaded with lurid, angsty aggression, Deathbed combine harsh, heavy metalcore with hints of nu-metal and a unique, vibrant twist to forge Dead Youth from raw, formless and furious emotion. Heavier than Hell without sacrificing catchiness or melody, Deathbed’s latest record is an album just about every adult can relate to.
With the bold bounce and inherent catchiness of a slightly-djenty progressive metalcore band but the sharpness and scathing intensity of a late-90s nu metal act, Deathbed take several styles and create an aggressive amalgam that starts strong on “Self-Medicate” and doesn’t let up until Dead Youth has reached an end. From the opening salvo of “Self-Medicate,” percussionist Vinnie Ciarallo embodies this hybrid dynamic to his very core. Where “Self-Medicate” and “Waste” are bouncy and sharp numbers that see Ciarallo pitting oddly-timed patterns against raunchy and bouncy grooves—while “Casualty” and “Dead Youth” are much more straightforward. “Casualty” especially sees Ciarallo playing with a two-steppy candor that implores listeners in venues and living rooms both to slip on their dancing shoes. Here, Ciarallo works intimately with bassist Alex Skraba, who adds punch to every percussive pattern Ciarallo plays. “516” sees Skraba working more on his own, adding a darker and grisly energy to the song that both adds deep heft to the drums and a low, loathing-loaded roar to Kyle Hines’ guitar. Riffsmith and lead songwriter Hines gives Dead Youth both its sharp, slicing nature as well as its moments of murderous and malicious heaviness. “516” and “Dead Youth” see him at his more ethereal, dominating the tracks with eerie leads that smoothly flow into and out of low, rumbling grooves. Meanwhile, “Self-Medicate” and “Save Me” are, on all fronts, more aggressive. From Hines’ writing and fretwork to Ciarallo and Skraba’s low and furious foundation.
In spite of the engaging nature of the musicianship throughout Dead Youth, it would be unable to truly appeal to the listener’s deceased and rotting naivety and innocence if it weren’t for the vocal efforts of frontman Lawrence Fickenworth. Fickenworth’s screams and screeches vary from a raw, abrasive mid-range yell to occasionally low bellows and ear-splitting highs—as they appear at their most diverse throughout “Self-Medicate.” However there is more to Fickenworth than a moderate display of harshly-screamed dynamism. Songs like “Dead Youth” and “516” see Fickenworth employing a variety of singing styles to appeal to listeners more interested in the band’s contemporary metalcore roots. Tracks like “Dead Youth” and “Save Me” see Fickenworth’s singing voice taking on a pitched yell akin to what one might expect from Architects—while “516” sees that style melded with crooned and crystalline clean vocals as well as bitter, harsh brays. Fickenworth is a talented vocalist, adding intensity and emotion in equally abundant amounts throughout Dead Youth, always sounding fresh and sharp, never weary or complacent with staying pidgeonholed in one style.
For all their musical skill, swarthy songwriting and vocal talent, Deathbed do little to create a truly unique sound—which isn’t necessarily an enormous fault as much as it is something the listener is almost instantly aware of. It’s hard—especially these days where it feels like everything has been done—to forge a new sound and style for yourselves. Deathbed may not necessarily succeed there—but they do succeed in putting their all into their sound, with Hines leading the charge. Every song on Dead Youth manages to be both crunchy and catchy—oppressive but still with enough atmosphere, melody and energy to get caught in the listener’s head like a fishhook. In a time where you have to think way outside the box to be called original, Deathbed instead opt to appeal to the listener’s emotions and nostalgia, using pure, poignant energy and just a touch of tremendous heaviness to appeal to listeners of all sorts.
For Fans Of: Architects, Barrier, VCTMS, Like Moths to Flames
By: Connor Welsh