REVIEW: Signs of the Swarm – Amongst the Low and Empty [2023]


Artist: Signs of the Swarm
Album: Amongst the Low and Empty

When I was in college, I vividly remember my roommate going off on a somewhat unhinged tangent that “amongst” wasn’t a real word–and what he meant by that is that it apparently wasn’t a word recognized in the Merriam-Webster English dictionary. His argument was that it was redundant–it meant the same thing as “among” and there was no time when amongst was appropriate and among was inappropriate. Every time I read or hear “among” I can hear that tirade almost word-for-word in my head. While there is some merit to his statement, it ultimately isn’t correct (the two are interchangeable), and furthermore, those suppositions do not apply in the slightest to the latest full length record by deathcore overlords Signs of the Swarm. Even if I do hear his voice every time I scroll to the record on my music player, it is instantly obliterated by upwards of 40 minutes of some of the finest deathcore 2023 has to offer–and what is surely a frontrunner in the band’s otherwise jam-packed discography. Laden with riffs and practically overflowing with aggression, Signs of the Swarm’s 2023 release is catalogue defining in the same breath that it is genre-defining. Borrowing from moments of absurd heaviness that define their early career while demonstrating ongoing maturation and refinement, Amongst the Low and Empty is anything but redundant, low or empty, despite what the name (and my college roomate) might have you think.
Amongst the Low and Empty transcends the great many subgenres within deathcore and is simply a heavy record. While the lead single and title track exemplify this to an absurd degree, other songs—like “Tower of Toros” and “Between Fire and Stone”—highlight the band’s ability to capture a distinctly metallic flavor while retaining their punishing proclivity for the breakdown. Through it all, percussionist and songwriter Bobby Crow simply dominates, with the ending portion of “Amongst the Low and Empty” serving as only the tip of his colossal iceberg of skill. “Malady” sees him at his bounciest, while “Pray for Death” is another outrageously heavy cut that sees him working side-by-side with bassist Michael Cassese. Where the band shine the most is with Crow’s ability to work intricately with guitarist Carl Schulz. Schulz’ skills on “Between Fire and Stone” and “The Witch Beckons” are unquestioned, as lacerating leads and ruthless riffs are woven between gut-busting breakdowns as though Amongst the Low and Empty was a primal, unforgiving tapestry. In other places, Schulz’ work is blended beautifully with atmospheric touches and industrial elements provided by Joshua Travis (Emmure, Glass Cloud, etc), Cameron Losch (Born of Osiris) and producer Josh Schroeder (Lorna Shore, King 810, Tallah), adding even further to the variegation Signs of the Swarm so proudly boast.
It would be remiss to discuss variety without mentioning the efforts cast forth by frontman David Simonich. Simonich has been a rising star in the extreme music scene, and every foot of his ascent has been insanely well-earned. On Amongst the Low and Empty, we see Simonich expanding his range even further—but more than we see his vocal diversity change, we see his ability to craft lyrics and infuse ruthless heaviness with riveting catchiness and stunning candor. Songs like “Tower of Torsos” and “Amongst the Low and Empty” are incredible not only for their instrumental intensity and vocal diversity, but because each track features a line or verse that stays firmly embedded in the listener’s head (and, okay, sure, the kick drum part on the title track deserves another shout out). Simonich turned his attention to structure and it shows many times throughout the record, with the emphasis spread not only from “how insane can I make this guttural” to “how insanely catchy can I make this chorus?” This is all done without sacrificing quality or making songs feel overblown or “poppy,” which deserves another small round of applause.
Vital Deprivation and Absolvere were strong records—especially for their time—but in comparison to Amongst the Low and Empty, they now feel woefully incomplete, as it has become plainly obvious that Signs of the Swarm have been building up to a record this monumental throughout their modest discography. Capturing the mind-boggling absurdity that gave their early work appeal and infusing it with a passion for heaviness that transcends the chugs and blast beats of run-of-the-mill deathcore, Amongst the Low and Empty is a full-bodied, explosive and raunchy journey that is as fun as it is catastrophically oppressive, serving as the band’s magnum opus…for now.

For Fans Of: Carnifex, Lorna Shore, Brand of Sacrifice, Crown Magnetar, Enterprise Earth
By: Connor Welsh