Album: Kicked Teeth Asphyxiation – EP
It happens without explanation or warning—an impact as violent and sudden as a car crack. Whiplash snaps your neck sharply backwards, sending electrifying bolts of white-hot pain down your spine, forcing your limbs to convulse violently. Your teeth splinter and crack like crystal smashing against concrete as you choke on the air forced out of your lungs. There was no indication or inkling of injury—no intent or inception, simply murderous drive as Queensland crushers Gouge expel every ounce of life from your body. The slamming deathcore act’s debut EP, Kicked Teeth Asphyxiation is every bit as violent and intense as its name implies. Clocking in at just over twenty minutes, Kicked Teeth Asphyxiation is as instantaneously ravaging as a baseball bat to the head, yet lingers and weighs on the listener like being set on fire. To put it simply, Gouge’s debut EP is a potent and promising heavyweight offering to brutal, slamming deathcore that will certainly carve their name alongside the genre’s greats.
Instrumentally, Gouge walk a thin line between the lacerating, lightning-fast lethality of machine-gun blast beats mixed with furiously fretted riffs and the searing, burning pain of punishing, soul-smothering breakdowns. On one hand, there is the jarring, manic riffing of guitarist Myles Shearer, who practically skins the listener with precise, tedious tremolo picking as heard on the frantically-fretted “Tony Aborted.” However, even Shearer’s most sinister and intense riffs are still tuned low enough to shake the listener’s ribcage, combining the standard speed and ferocity of slamming, brutal death metal with the go-for-the-throat attitude and force of deathcore and hardcore. However, where Shearer is lightning-quick and piercing, bassist Scott Markovic is his polar opposite; a plodding, looming monolith of crushing, deep thickness that crushes the listener with each chug. Markovic adds a truly unique and marvelous aspect to Gouge’s gut-wrenching brand of brutal deathcore in the sense that his rollicking bass licks are just as loud—if not louder—than Shearer’s guitar. Throughout the entire duration of Kicked Teeth Asphyxiation, Markovic works perfectly alongside Shearer as if the band had two true guitarists—one with a penchant for hyperspeed riffs and another with a skill for unimaginably dense and dismembering heaviness. The task of balancing Shearer and Markovic’s dialectic onslaught lies on the shoulders of percussionist Rangi Barnes. Barnes provides a beautiful—yet brutalizing—aspect to Kicked Teeth Asphyxiation that sets them apart from a majority of the bree-ridden, slamming sound-the-same bands that plague deathcore’s heavier end. Rather than reliance on supersonic blasts and obnoxious fills, Barnes uses beastly, bouncy catchy footwork and splashy cymbals along with technically marvelous pattern crafting to immerse the listener in a manner atypical of the genre. By veering away from blast-beating the album to death—using them only to set the pace for the faster portions of “Kicked Teeth Asphyxiation” and “Insidious”—he adds another aspect to Gouge’s dynamic that is truly unique and instrumental in defining the band’s musical mastery.
However, no slamming, brutal, (insert adjective synonymous with heavy here) death metal-turned-deathcore act would be complete without the nearly-unintelligible vocal style the genre is renowned for—the same style vocalist Josh Langford is an expert in. Langford is a master when it comes to the murky, almost-squeal, almost-growl bellow that bewilders the listener throughout Kicked Teeth Asphyxiation. While he leaves little room for diversity or variety with his vocal technique, the style he employs is visceral and suits the album’s instrumentation perfectly. His throat-shredding roars rip furiously alongside Markovic’s murderous, raunchy bass tone—and keeps perfect candor with Bares’ blistering percussion. “Creep Fast” is a crushing example of Langford’s vocals working perfectly with Gouge’s instrumental aspects to smash the listener’s sanity into stardust. While Langford might not be the most varied vocalist the genre has seen, he is beautifully consistent, and, furthermore, works well with the instruments backing him to create a dense, violent wall of sound that hits the listener like a shotgun, but lingers like a plague.
Blood pooling around the listener’s feet, coursing from their ears, eyes, mouth and nose, they are practically drowning in it—gore and grime inflicted by Gouge’s debut EP, that is. Kicked Teeth Asphyxiation is a lot of things: violent, intense, suffocating, dense…yet far from many of the negative adjectives that seem to plague debut releases (especially where “slamming” anything is involved). Monotonous? Far from. Each track has its own atmosphere and feel to it, even though that atmosphere might find itself filling the listener’s lungs and weighing them down like molten tar. Boring? This release couldn’t be boring if it tried. While Gouge are a young band, they are well versed in the methods of crafting magnificently energetic yet completely crushing music. “Insidious” is a great example—combining high-speed slams and skull-splitting breakdowns with groove-tinted bits of bounce and technicality that make it accessible to fans of practically any kind of heavy music. The greatest gift Kicked Teeth Asphyxiation gives the genre isn’t simply how heavy it is, but how entertaining, immersive and accessible it also manages to be.
Somewhere between its bouncy, over-the-top bass tone and the grinding, woodchipper-like percussion, Kicked Teeth Asphyxiation manages to force its way into the listener’s head and stay lodged there. Blending technicality with frantic energy, furious riffs and bodacious breakdowns, Gouge use nothing but brute force to gouge their name into the slamming deathcore hall of fame.
For Fans Of: Abominable Putridity, WolvesXHys, Chamber of Malice, Acranius, Acrania
By: Connor Welsh