REVIEW: Within Destruction – Yōkai [2020]

Artist: Within Destruction

Album: Yōkai

         The darkest corners of your mind come to life as the sun sinks below the horizon. Things grow bleak, dominated by shadow. The voices grow louder—as they’re never truly silent—and command eerie, dark and evil things. Kill someone. Kill anyone. Kill yourself. The shadows that snapped to life moments ago now move—spirits, If you will—guiding your every move. These spirits, shadows, demons, creatures—whatever you want to call them—have different names depending on culture and ethnicity. For instance, the Japanese refer to them or “it” as Yōkai—and with the abundant aggressive and evil atmosphere in Within Destruction’s third studio record, it’s safe to say that Yōkai is a very solid name. Expanding from their previous niche of slamming deathcore, Within Destruction have crafted one of the most diverse deathcore records in recent history, using an abundance of urban, Japanese, hip-hop and metal culture to give each song on Yōkai a unique sound and style. Fear not—there are still countless moments of barbaric, slam-tinted brutality—but above and beyond that, Within Destruction have created a sprawling, genre-spanning heavy record that features something for everyone between spastic slams, lacerating blast-beats, ruthless bars and explosive beats.

         Now, Yōkai is a blanket term referring to a broad variety of spirits, monsters, demons and sprites; not all of them are inherently evil. With that said, Within Destruction’s Yōkai is pretty damn wicked. Sitting soundly between a half-hour and a full 60 minutes, the band’s third full length release is a marked departure rom Void and D E A T H W I S H. Focusing less on absurd slamming elements and over the top brutality and more on songs that stride the line between crushing and catchy, Yōkai is a masterful display of diversity if nothing else. Starting with the impressive, anthemic title track, Within Destruction readily remind the listener they haven’t lost their penchant for punchy heaviness. Percussionist Luka Vezzosi dominates throughout, with songs like “Backstab” and “Kings of Darkness” reminding the listener of the  unfathomable speed and intensity he’s capable of, while songs like “Yōkai” and “Hate Me” see Vezzosi using bouncy, catchy drumming as a foundation for some of the record’s less “slamming” and pop, hip-hop-infused-deathcore elements. “Harakiri” is another example—here with Vezzosi’s drumming riding a smooth segue into an eerie lo-fi beat to the tie the track together. Where some songs—like “Backstab” and “Harakiri”—see Vezzosi’s drumming take center stage, others (such as “Judgement,” “No Way Out” and “Yōkai”) see the band’s fretwork dominate, using metallic riffs as a backbone for scathing, brutalizing leads and grisly grooves alike. Yes—the band still slams—take “Judgement” as evidence of that (or “Kings of Darkness” for that matter), but they also oscillate between over-the-top slams and nostalgic breakdowns, with moments of “Alone” sounding particularly early-2010s. Meanwhile, “B4NGB4NG!!” may as well be from the future, with leads working side-by-side with bass-heavy beats and intense electronic effects to bombard the listener with a near-sensory overload before dashing their brains out with a robust rap-laced breakdown. Worth mentioning is also the penultimate track of Yōkai, featuring work from guitarist Jason Richardson (Born of Osiris, etc). Richardson’s work on this track adds yet another dimension to Within Destruction, capturing immense technicality and making it flow well with the band’s futuristic, distinctly Japanese theme. The picture here is one of diversity, with Within Destruction refusing to make the same song twice—a hard feat for any heavy band these days.

         A mainstay of Within Destruction has always been their frontman, Rok Rupnik. Rupnik’s vocal prowess is sprawling and spans a multitude of styles and influences—this has never been more apparent as it is on Yōkai. With intriguing guest vocalists complementing a stellar vocal performance, Rupnik’s work—especially throughout the middle run of the record, is incredible. “Judgement” sees Rupnik’s range taking center stage, while “Harakiri” sees him working with rapper Bill $aber to create something melancholic, moody and brooding. A stark contrast to the energetic display of hip-hop on “B4NGB4NG!!,” where Rupnik weaves in and out between two guest rappers. The abundance of guests, surprisingly, does not detract from Rupnik’s skill, with many of the songs comprising the middle of the record ensuring the listener that even in spite of a less “brootal” approach, Rupnik’s range—including registers found in the annals of slamming deathcore and death metal—is still up-to-par. Consistent and creative throughout, Rupnik’s finest work lies on Yōkai, bar none.

         Nothing about Yōkai is really what the listener expected from a band whose notoriety within the heavy music scene exploded over a period of months. Adopting a profound appreciation for pan-Asian imagery, design and influence, Within Destruction have created a record that blends elements from poppier genres into a backbone of brutalizing deathcore—and more impressively, does it well. While Yōkai isn’t for everyone—some will undoubtedly call it corny—there is no denying the diversity throughout the record, and in such diversity, there are sure to be tracks that even the most stringent heavy music critics will find themselves boppin’ to. Heavy, fun and unique, Within Destruction continue to branch out and expand their roots, drawing from new influences to make something engaging and thoroughly entertaining.


For Fans Of: Signs of the Swarm, Bodysnatcher, To the Grave, Acrania

By: Connor Welsh