REVIEW: Despondent – Awakening the Elder Gods [EP/2015]


Artist: Despondent

Album: Awakening the Elder Gods – EP


The earth exists in careful balance, exerted upon at all times by forces far beyond human comprehension or compare. These forces are the auras of dormant Titans–ancient deities that crafted and molded our planet into the state it is today. Mercifully, these omnipowerful Gods have remained inert, pulsing just prominently enough to allow earth’s existence to carry on, slipping under their radar; “have” being the operative term. Upon the release of Awakening the Elder Gods, the latest EP from Ohio-based slam-turned-deathcore duo Despondent, the earth is cast once more into peril. Awakening the Elder Gods is a raunchy, powerful display of prodigally talented slamming deathcore potent enough to wake even the most distant deities from their dormancy. Combining tedious, intense instrumentation with a guttural, grotesque vocal onslaught, Despondent ring out like a gunshot, shaking the music community with a dynamic approach to deathcore that will appeal to fans of any kind of heaviness.

Before Despondent entered my encyclopedia of slamming deathcore, the “slam” bands I truly enjoyed were limited to a precious few that consist of the widely praised “elite” artists in the genre. Enter Awakening the Elder Gods, a unique display of eviscerating heaviness that combined skin-shredding riffs with ultra-dissonant slams and bone-splintering breakdowns–essentially a grab bag of spine-splintering musicianship that allows the EP to incinerate the listener without remorse or relent. The entirety of Despondent’s devastating instrumentation is composed by Tyler Merendino–everything from the woodchipper-sequel blast beats in “II. The Madness from the Sea” to the eerie, immense fretwork in “I. Awakening The Elder Gods” pours forth from his fingers, which may as well be a cornucopia of crushing brutality. Instrumentally, Awakening the Elder Gods is a diverse offering that brings the accessibility of deathcore together with the speed of slam and the creativity of death metal–circumventing the tendency towards monotony that plagues much modern music. Merendino’s musical prowess is perhaps the highlight of Despondent’s destructive release, as it gives fans of any sort of heaviness something to find solace in. Don’t care much for over the top breakdowns? Then soak your ears in the technical acid bath that is “III. Succumbing to Insanity.” Have a crush on crushing chugfests? Every track Despondent bring to the table on their eerie EP features at least one bombastic slam-tinted breakdown guaranteed to get your head banging.

In same capacity that Awakening the Elder Gods is a grab bag of musical influences, Despondent also bring to the table a tour of deathcore, death metal and slam death’s varying vocal styles. While this sounds like nothing but positive, it presents the listener with some vocal styles and ranges that might not ring true. Austin Chaloux, Despondent’s resident voice of terror is–as one would expect–enormously talented. He is just as comfortable with a lofty, aggressive mid-range shout as he is with filth-ridden lows and skyscraping screams. Where his range falters, the figurative gap is bridged by several of slam’s most sinister voices–from Duncan Bentley of Vulvodynia to Tommy Rouse of Necroexphilia–to provide a punishing lesson in all things slam. This is one of Awakening the Elder Gods’ strengths, but also the source of its sole weakness. Take, for example, “III. Succumbing to Insanity.” Where Chaloux’s vocals are absolutely on point, the gasping gurgles provided by the guests might not be for everyone–and what’s more is that they seem to fit poorly with the instrumentation surrounding them. While there is nothing wrong with vocals standing apart from their musical canvas, there are good and bad ways to warrant it–this being an example of the latter. However, Despondent are redeemed once more by their penchant for diversity. Just as soon as it begins, it ends, as both Merendino and Chaloux choose to move on to greener (or perhaps more desolate) musical pastures.

Short but intense, Awakening the Elder Gods is Despondent’s shot to the gut of heavy music–brief, bombastic and brutalizing, leaving even the most sturdy fans of brutality bleeding out on the pavement. What the EP lacks in run time it makes up for in densely-packed content (save the seemingly wasteful concluding track), spoiling very few seconds in delivering endless intensity and excruciating heaviness to the listener. Slam one second and thrashing death metal the next, only to veer into straight-up deathcore heaviness moments later, tracks like the epic “II. The Madness from the Sea” will have listener’s everywhere wondering why they haven’t been following this band before now. With the flow of a sea filled with molten butter, but aggression like a pack off pit bulls with rabies, Despondent is a dynamic duo Hellbent on destroying the listener one iota at a time.

With the planet plunged into chaos, Despondent provide the apocalypse’s appropriate soundtrack. Seas rise, volcanoes flair and ground crumbles as Awakening the Elder Gods blares in the background, drenching the planet in dissonance and despair for the remainder of its days.



For Fans Of: Vulvodynia, Acranius, Acrania, Cerebral Bore, Ingested

By Connor Welsh