REVIEW: Psycho-Frame – Automatic Death Protocol [EP/2023]

Artist: Psycho-Frame

Album: Automatic Death Protocol

You are visited again by the wrath of the Frame.

When’s the last time you heard a band release an EP that was truly genre-defining? Admittedly, we’ve had a great couple years for music—so maybe it was earlier this year, last year, the year before—whatever. Despite this, it’s rare, right? It isn’t something that just happens every day. Now I want you to think about the last time you heard two genre defining EPs within one calendar year. A couple instances from the early 2010s come to mind (looking at you, Illinois metalcore). Now when’s the last time you’ve heard two genre defining EPs within one calendar year from the same band?

Probably never, right? Me too. Enter Psycho-Frame. Hailing from the swampy underbelly of the United States, anyone who’s anyone in the underground heavy music has no doubt heard about this outfit and their immense 2023 debut, Remote God Seeker by now (if you haven’t, it isn’t too late). Now, some seven months later, we are graced with Automatic Death Protocol, the band’s follow-up to their critically acclaimed breakout release; while it almost definitely isn’t “Remote God Seeker 2,” it takes the notoriety, intensity and aggression abound on Remote God Seeker and amplifies it one hundred-fold, giving us what is without any doubt the best, most relentless, most riveting and most aggressive EP of 2023.

The very second “A Further Showing of Violence” starts, the listener is cast head-first into a realm of pure, primal hate. Once more, we bear witness to Psycho-Frame unloading a salvo of skin-rending blast beats, psychotic riffs with piercing pinch harmonics and ghastly vocals for twenty minutes without reprieve. “A Further Showing of Violence” on its own demonstrates all of these facets of Psycho-Frame’s dynamic without fail—but the scathing “Crawlspace Messiah” highlights jaw-dropping percussion while lead single (and candidate for best track of the entire year) “The Plot to Nuke the Midwest” is home to riffs and grooves that almost steal the show—only one-upped by the world-ending breakdown that serves as the song’s (and record’s) climax. Throughout Automatic Death Protocol, Psycho-Frame create pure, hyper-concentrated deathcore with an intense technical twist that makes each song complex and intricate without feeling like an overtly technical record. The result is each track being so boundlessly packed with delicately nuanced instrumental details that each listen through the EP (and there will be a LOT of listens) reveals something new for the listener to fall in love with. This is just as much thanks to the band’s principle songwriters as it is to the group at Swamp Sound (it would be remiss not to mention Hunter Young, Brandan Lopez with help from Austin Coupe as well). With their expertise, the listener finds themselves subject to manic, blitzing brutality on “Straitjacket Afterbirth” and find themselves ground to a festering, steaming pulp on “Beaten Beyond Identification”—with each track feeling distinct, yet extraordinarily consistent in their intensity and primal fury.

It would be pure oversight to discuss primal fury and not spend time on Jon Whittle and Mike Sugars’ vocal contribution to Automatic Death Protocol. By no means did Whittle or Sugars (or really anyone) slack on Remote God Seeker—but the vocal onslaught that awaits the listener on the band’s follow-up EP is beyond what anyone (myself included) could have imagined. Psycho-Frame’s vocal range, variety and articulation are all honed and refined to a hair-splitting edge, with the duo’s skills on center stage. “A Further Showing of Violence” sees the band exert their authority over all that is heavy, while “Bone Crown Deformity” and “The Plot to Nuke the Midwest” are both hateful anthems thriving on malevolence and scorn.

Whittle and Sugars’ excellence is reinforced by the company he keeps on Automatic Death Protocol. Psycho-Frame find themselves joined by a collection of incredible vocalists—from Don Campan himself, to Kane Gelaznik of Vomit Forth and Tyler Mullen of Scarab (who I hadn’t actually heard of before this). Despite these incredible guest appearances, the duo’s vocals remain one of the strongest overall selling points to the entire release, as they go verse-for-verse with a literal legend on “Beaten Beyond Identification” and shine just as brightly—if not even more so. My point here is that at no point does Psycho-Frame’s native vocal element become upstaged in the slightest, despite the slew of remarkable guests the listener is graced with—instead we are graced with moments of stunning vocal camaraderie that make key portions of most tracks on Automatic Death Protocol even more memorable .

Psycho-Frame have done the unimaginable on Automatic Death Protocol in a variety of ways. It’s hard to believe an EP this comprehensively crushing even exists in the first place, but it’s even harder to believe that it’s coming from the same band that, up until a couple weeks ago, had been holding my own personal EP of the year with their debut release. Psycho-Frame have taken everything that was excellent about Remote God Seeker (see: everything) and built from it, incorporating more speed, technical prowess and raw power, making Automatic Death Protocol truly its own standalone release instead of feeling like a simple sequel. If we take it a slice deeper, the reason Automatic Death Protocol reigns above its predecessor is largely because every element feels more memorable and more impactful, from the howls of “we are not the same” on “A Further Showing of Violence” to the demonic vocal display that starts “Straitjacket Afterbirth,” the guest appearance on “Crawlspace Messiah” and the Neon Genesis Evangelion sample into soul-smothering breakdown on “The Plot to Nuke the Midwest.” Each song has a lynchpin moment that defines it and keeps the listener hooked, and in turn, the listener keeps coming back and finding other, more subtle gems to love. In short, while some might want to hem, haw and argue, there really is no argument; Psycho-Frame are the kings of this shit.

10/10, higher if I could.

For Fans Of: Waking the Cadaver, Tracheotomy, Spinkicks, VFW Fests, 2008 YouTube Breakdown Compilations, Gory Anime

By: Connor Welsh