When you’re talking about what makes a record engaging, responsibility usually falls in the drummer’s lap. A guitarist may come up with a given riff, but it doesn’t truly take shape unless sculpted by capable limbs.
Death metal bands—especially of the “brutal” variety—have an overkill problem. They’re too busy, too serious, too caught up in their over-the-top culture. That cool riff the rhythm guitarist turns in is usually in danger of being strangled by octopus-powered flashsizzle. (Remember We Are the Nightmare? Or any Spawn of Possession song ever?) The result of such overkill? Teflon. A scribble-logo’d sea of arms-clasped, black-clad, NO SMILING, GODDAMMIT Teflon.
But somehow, Benighted always manages to stick.
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How? That drummer, mang. Going all the way back to 2006’s Identisick, this band has always had a knack for employing whip-smart rhythms, even if their major operational tactic is basically 1) chugchug, 2) BREE SCREEEEE!, 3) repeat. They manage to keep things exciting even when staring into the face of predictability.
And those vocals. Again, while the tactics aren’t novel when dissected, Benighted is supremely adept at Tetris-ing them into wicked little blocks of brutality. The unhinged hardcore barks that linchpinned their first single, “Experience Your Flesh,” added a welcome call-and-response element that lent the inward squees a more profound impact. The non-standard howls surface often, most notably on “Slaughter/Suicide”—a demented trip that eventually spirals into horrified shrieks and madman rants—and “Collection of Dead Portraits,” a gang-vocalled, blast-furnace pitcall.
The surprisingly tactful pacing isn’t just limited to individual tracks; Carnivore Sublime’s finest cuts are the closers, “Les Morsures du Cerbère”—which expertly blends a rare melodic line with a maelstrom of blasts—and “June and the Laconic Solstice.” The latter track is the quintessential closing track, packed with all of the band’s hallmarks: bebop riffing gives way to buzzsaw dropouts; gutturals downshift to pigsqeals; pigsqueals give way to disgust-o-core sneers; and it closes with a freaking bass solo.
This, simply put, is just a blast to listen to. Benighted’s boisterousness has always made them stand out from the pack, and Carnivore Sublime is no exception. This is the smartest dumb-fun record to hit the streets in ages. If more bands shared Benighted’s rare combination of self-awareness and wit, deathcore might be more than just an outdated pejorative.