The first time I saw them play, Carnifex was touring with Killwhitneydead and The Demonstration, supporting their 2008 release The Diseased and The Poisoned. The venue – The Mad Hatter Club – a hardcore-oriented bar venue at capacity with drunk punks, aggressive metal-heads, heaily tattooed straight-edge boys and a thick cloud of noxious cigarette smoke. Outside, the August heat was spot-welding tires to the ground.
On stage frontman Scott Lewis beat his chest and spewed hate for the world as a vein in his forehead pulsatted in sync with drummer Shawn Cameron’s light-speed double bass work in such a way that I half-expect it to burst at any moment, covering the crowd in gallons upon gallons of his loathsome blood. Guitarist Cory Arford and Ryan Gudmunds shreded their way through the band’s debut single, “Lie To My Face,” and asthe song reaches it’s utterly savage climax and the relentless blast beats and drop-C chugging begin, Lewis’ vocals slip into the kind of deep gravelly growl reserved for gargoyles, minotaurs, and the gigantic demon from Fantasia; and then, without any warning, the music stops, Lewis draws in a deep breath of the silent, molasses air through his tattooed throat and curdles out a four word avalanche of vicious emotion, “lie to my face!” To this day, I’ve never heard anyone go that low. I was hooked.
Nearly two years later, Scott and the boys are back with their third album, Hell Chose Me, and very little has changed. Scott’s growls are as low as they’ve ever been, his screams still sound like he stole a banshee’s voice box, and the lyrics are still unapologetically vindictive. Ryan and Cory are still shredding through the kind of ferocious riffs that make Kerry King quiver and chugging through foundation-shaking breakdowns; and Cameron’s hyper-technical percussion work still feels like an explosive test on fast-forward. But, it’s not what stayed the same that makes Hell one of the best deathcore releases in months; it’s the overall complexity of the album.
There seems to be this terrible movement within the hard core scene where the goal in each and every song is to bullshit your way through to the verses in an attempt to build up to the epic breakdown, each one being heavier and boggier than the former. I call it “brOOtal syndrome” and it’s an epidemic that claims even the most reputable and virtuosic death metal and metalcore bands; and it’s not that the breakdowns aren’t important, it’s just that too much importance is placed upon it and the rest of the songwritting process suffers. So, in the midst of this myspace-ready plague, Hell is a breath of fresh air. The super down-tuned “Beethovencore” riffs on tracks like “Entombed Monarch” and “Dead Archetype” are a testament to a refreshing revivalist movement towards better guitar-work throughout the entire song and the post-breakdown bass groove “Names Mean Nothing” is a clear indication of some very positive cross-genre experimentation.
When you get to bass tracks, Carnifex’s continual production of uber-brutal breakdowns may be a strong suit on Hell, but it’s the band’s refusal to buy into the maelstrom of bullshit currently surrounding the scene. Bottom like: if Hell chose Carnifex, Hell chose right.