Artist: Dismiss the Serpent
Like it or not, many of the more aggressive and relentless facets of metalcore and deathcore just aren’t for everybody. That’s not to say that the music is bad, or that the people who can’t get into it are bad, it’s just a simple fact: it isn’t for everybody. In an attempt to expand their fan base and reach out to more people, many aggressive, otherwise sinfully heavy death-and-metal-core acts are including more melodic and less harsh elements. I’ll be the first to go on record and admit that, typically, it doesn’t work out for the better. What doesn’t seem contrived and questionably combined comes across unbalanced and hardly a mixture of genres in the slightest. However, if you’re looking for a band that does it right, look no further than Indiana’s Dismiss the Serpent. Recently re-awakened under We Are Triumphant’s management, their latest release Afterlives is a picture-perfect blend of aggressive, technically marvelous and stunningly heavy metalcore and ultramelodic, post-hardcore styled clean vocal interludes which are sure to keep your feet tapping, head banging and jaw on the floor from start to finish.
Opening with “Honesty is Short and Not So Sweet,” the listener can already discern a surprising amount about the album ahead of them. A subtle, sneaky fade in to a back-busting breakdown outlines the band’s two main approaches to bombarding the listener. Before there is any reasonable chance to reckon with the introductory track, the listener is swept into the real heart of the album, and what the next several tracks will truly be composed of. Dismiss the Serpent kicks Afterlives off with “War of Us All,” a track which smoothly, but brilliantly highlights the band’s two great strengths: pit-inducing, skin-peeling heaviness and hypermelodic, wonderfully sung clean vocals. Using piercing pinch harmonics and panic chords to break up the chug-ridden grooves, Dismiss the Serpent prove they are more than proficient in the art of the breakdown. However, on the other hand, the chorus features buttery, glistening clean vocals and harmonized instrumentation which is far from contrived and nowhere even close to half assed.
A majority of Afterlives does find it’s feet cement-shoed in a mixture of beatdown aggression and blasting brutality–and what they do, they do well. With deep, booming drums and guitars which can drop from sky-high squeals to sunken, subterranean lows. Like the guitar, the vocals follow a strikingly similar dynamic. Whether it’s the high screams prevalent throughout much of “War of Us All,” or the marvelous vocal variety found throughout “The Never Ending,” the vocals are a constant entertainment and an easy high point of Dismiss the Serpent’s heavier end. Where the shrill screams and bellowed growls seem to stand out the most, however, is on the album’s highlight track, “Etherial Skies,” where the instruments pause and a mixture of skyscraper highs and subterrestrial lows blend into a vocal onslaught that leads brilliantly into a neck-snapping, pit-starting, balls-to-the-wall fist fight of a breakdown. “Etherial Skies” features some of the absolute best fill-work from the drums and some of the most stunning vocal dynamics to be heard throughout the entire album–especially when one factors in the brilliant clean vocals which find their way into the track.
The clean vocals bring Dismiss the Serpent’s dynamic into full perspective. While Afterlives’ sheer jaw-breaking brutality might seem otherwise “standard” at first, the presence of an almost divinely-inspired intervention of clean-sung melody and instrumental harmonization on just about every track. While it is a common component of the band’s sound, it is most effective on “Etherial Skies” (which I feel I have already justified as a brilliant track by it’s own right) and “The War of Us All,” which has a catchy, wonderful chorus which, in some ways, is even better than the heavy sections which it intervenes. It’s moments like the chorus on “The War of Us All” where Dismiss the Serpent could have dropped the ball. If that chorus wasn’t as catchy or smooth as it is, it would just seem…contrived or complacent. Rather, it proactively moves the song along, keeping listeners engaged, interested and asking for more.
So don’t let the clean-vocal moniker keep you from this gem of an album. Afterlives shows Dismiss the Serpent writing brilliantly catchy and wonderfully executed melodic sections to accompany the blisteringly heavy moments which are pervasive throughout the release. As is standard for the genre, even if one component of the band’s powerhouse dynamic doesn’t appeal to you, the other parts of this multifaceted progressive metalcore act surely will, as Dismiss the Serpent are a benchmark band, excelling at what many bands have failed so hard trying to achieve.
For Fans Of: Endless, Barrier, Greenstreet, The Color Morale
By: Connor Welsh/Eccentricism