REVIEW: Decayer – Shades of Grief [EP/2020]

Artist: Decayer

Album: Shades of Grief – EP

         The mechanisms by which human beings process emotion are complicated both conceptually and in practice. From an anatomic standpoint, several areas of the brain are involved and are required to fire in a precise fashion to make “feelings” out of random stimuli. These areas of the brain trigger an autonomic response—especially to fear, rage and sorrow—that are widespread across the body, affecting your heart, respiratory system, stomach, kidneys and more. However even in spite of the autonomic and neurologic mechanisms by which human emotion is made into an experience, that’s really only 5—maybe 10—percent of the battle. Much of human emotion is a matter of the spirit, soul, psyche, whatever extracorporeal guiding force one believes to help create sensation and feeling out of events and circumstance. In the scope of all it takes to experience, process and retain an emotion in response to an event, Arizona deathcore outfit Decayer have used their discography—most notably their sophomore EP The Agony Cycle and forthcoming release Shades of Grief—to expand on the notion of experiencing and processing emotion. Shades of Grief does this masterfully, taking the listener on a journey through anger, pain, sorrow and bitterness over its brief-but-blistering run time. While it stands as the band’s shortest contribution to their ever-growing discography, it also stands as far and away their strongest, an excellent example of tasteful, balanced and diverse deathcore with both substance enough to provoke feeling and energy enough to provoke visceral response.

         If we’re being very honest, Cycles of Grief is a record that—for anyone who has heard a Decayer song before—can almost instantly be recognized as a Decayer record. So why, then, does Shades of Grief stand as the band’s strongest release to date? In short, because even Decayer have never done their own sound this well. Across four furious tracks, the band expand on every aspect of their balanced, catchy deathcore amalgam, giving the listener both diversity and consistency in ample amounts. Shades of Grief utilizes speed and intensity akin to a deathcore act, yet borrows bombastic, punchy and aggressive elements from hardcore and metalcore aplenty—see “Talented Sun,” or “Cold Wind.” Here, the drumming oscillates between a non-stop fervor of blast-beats blended with whirlwind fills and catchy, punctual patterns that define two steps big and bouncy enough to make a paraplegic get up and move. Other songs—“Nobody” for example—focus on the kind of beefy, bold aggression that defined the band’s debut EP. Here, percussion strides a line of balance between flashiness and monotony while the band’s fretwork takes swings at the listeners head with low, brutalizing chugs. No aspect of Shades of Grief is necessarily technical, however plenty features riffs and leads catchy and memorable enough to leave a lasting impression on the listener, with “Nobody” and “Living Death” doing just that. The band’s guitars romp atop explosive percussion, keeping things simple enough to catchy and fun, yet flashy enough to provide depth and density to the band’s brief, blitzing display of deathcore dynamism.

         Shades of Grief finds extraordinary balance in its instrumentation—the kinds of which Decayer have been experimenting to find since their debut—and in the same vein, the band’s vocal effort remains just as thought-out and dynamic. Including everything from low, guttural bellows to piercing shrieks and raw mid-range yells, Decayer’s vocal element is as diverse as one could want, with no one track sounding quite the same (a must for a four-track EP). “Nobody” is non-stop aggression, fitting its instrumental canvas. Likewise, “Talented Sun” sees balance between sparsely included singing (an element experimented with in their debut full length End Note) blended amid predominantly throat-rending mid-range roars. The band’s vocalist exceeds in matching tone and intensity not only to lyrical content, but to his instrumental canvas, making each track hit hard and with purpose.

         Decayer are a deathcore band—and while some elements on End Note might have seen them trying to edge out of that mold, Shades of Grief sees them doubling down on the genre, putting their all into creating inventive, heavy and diverse examples of the genre. Avoiding the pitfalls of End Note’s lack-luster production, improving on the energy The Agony Cycle created, Shades of Grief is a grisly, masterfully-executed display of deathcore that makes four tracks feel as full and satisfying as a full-length release—without the filler or monotony that often follows suit.


For Fans Of: Bodysnatcher, Osiah, The Green Leaves, Left to Suffer

By: Connor Welsh