Album: Pestilence – EP
Pestilence—the one with the big P—refers to the Bubonic Plague, technically. However, if you had to pick a runner-up—you know, an alternate to the plague that reduced the global population by over one third and continued to remain a force of marked lethality for years to follow—the 2021 EP of the same name by Arizonan deathcore aggressors Decayer might not be a bad place to start. While it doesn’t have a death toll 75-200 million, it does boast a comprehensive assault built upon scathing riffs, lacerating blast beats and bone-busting breakdowns enough to inflict mass casualty. In a sense, Pestilence is a bittersweet release—as it sees some of the band’s former key members (namely, vocalist Harrison Burkhardt) departing, but sees the return of a familiar face (or more adequately, familiar voice). All things considered, Pestilence is a powerhouse, and fits perfectly into Decayer’s discography, seeming to pick up right where Shades of Grief left off, balancing contemporary deathcore with innovative twists and turns to keep the listener not only engaged, but immersed throughout its play time.
Since Decayer’s inception, one of the greatest strengths they have been able to bring to contemporary deathcore is a careful blend of the genre’s more nostalgic elements with a bright infusion of more modern metallic touches. Where some of their releases—End Note in particular—strayed away from that, Pestilence practically perfects it. Where album opener “Silence” and “Dead Soul” feel very fresh and modern in their approach to groovy, bass-heavy deathcore, the more riveting and fast-paced “Martyrdom” and “Gravemind” see this fusion at its finest. Here, blistering percussion serves as a stellar foundation for furious fretwork to segue in and out of bombastic, explosive breakdowns. “Gravemind” especially sees this dynamic in full effect, with some of the records most nauseating (in a good way) twists and turns, into and out of moments of back-breaking heaviness. Meanwhile, “Cold Soul” is catchier, with a distinct bounce that keeps the listener bobbing for its entirety. Here, the drumming works more intricately with the band’s bass, keeping a smooth, fluid flow to the entire song without some of the sharp twists and turns found elsewhere throughout Pestilence. In short, the band is energetic in their approach throughout the release, whether it’s the immolating riffs or punchy percussion—the bright, sharp guitar or loathsome gritty bass—the band bring their all to their latest EP and it absolutely shows.
Vocally, I was as concerned as anyone when it came time for Burkhardt’s departure from the band. For the last several years, Burkhardt was not only the vocalist, but the face of Decayer as most people knew the band. In his departure, however, came the return of debut EP frontman Sean Labrucherie. In short, Labrucherie’s voice is such that one might not even realize Burkhardt had departed, as the two share some very similar styles and ranges. In more detail, Labrucherie’s voice is able to morph and adapt to screeching highs and eviscerating lows—heard throughout the release but on “Gravemind” especially—and is able to produce candor and patterning to match even the band’s most demanding segments. Where Labrucherie is similar to Burkhardt is familiar and comforting, but where he is markedly different (“Devil’s Tongue”) is refreshing and invigorating, as he pivots from piercing screams to blistering bellows without missing a beat. Where the band’s instrumental element is fun, accessible and energetic, their vocal element is unstoppable and thoroughly oppressive.
Decayer have built a sizeable following by blending various styles of heavy music into a deathcore-predominant crock-pot. While Pestilence doesn’t necessarily see the band furthering their dynamic or reinventing their sound, it sees them continuing to build and bolster the essence of their own style, concentrating and purifying the groove-tinted proclivities for punishing aggression that have made them their modest empire. Songs like “Martyrdom” and “Cold Soul” will keep the listener coming back for more time and time again, while “Devil’s Tongue” sees the band focus more on their transitions and songwriting than their outright aggression. All in all, Pestilence is a balanced and fun release that still packs a hefty punch, earning it a solid, well-deserved spot in the band’s strong discography.
For Fans Of: Bodysnatcher, Filth, Bystander