BRUCEXCAMPBELL – South to No Life Review

I don’t need to prattle on about the relationship between metal and horror. If you’re reading this site, you know the deal. Last year, we were given two great examples on how to do horror in what can loosely be termed deathgrind. Exhumed’s Horror built a killer set of tracks around a loose horror aesthetic in which violent music and decipherable violent lyrics lovingly told tales of slasher tropes and gore, and the fantastic album art sweetened the deal. Fulci’s Tropical Sun was all about Italian director Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 21 and utilized intro pieces which recalled the film’s soundtrack and samples from the movie as well, ending with a metal cover of the theme. This was a more conceptually focused theme than Exhumed did, but both results were metallic gifts to horror fiends. Through this lens we can examine South to No Life, which actually came out digitally last year but is now getting the coveted LP treatment – let’s just blame some pesky Deadites and move on, shall we?

BRUCEXCAMPBELL is a deathgrind band named after an actor known for one thing: Evil Dead. Sam Raimi’s series contains the favorite movie of many old-school extreme metallers (normally the first or second film) and a plethora of thematic content for a metal record, either in the Exhumed or Fulci mold. What’s to hope for from a deathgrind band named after the man legend who plays Ash? First, echoing Evil Dead II’s most famous line, there should be a “groovy” riff or two. Second, given the famous…um…enhancement Ash gives himself, the guitars should probably have an HM-2 flavor to them for that “chainsaw” aesthetic. BRUCEXCAMPBELL succeed at the second, having a chainsaw-adjacent tone that, while you’re not going to think Mr. Skogsberg produced it at Studio Sunlight, works quite well for the material.

As for something groovy, South to No Life tends to lack in that department because it’s chock-full of riffs that are wallpaper. It sounds like deathgrind, and you won’t mistake this record for anything else, but there’s ultimately little to hold your attention and absolutely no impetus to not just throw on Exhumed or Fulci for another go instead of BRUCEXCAMPBELL. This sounds like a mixture of Exhumed and Nasum outtakes, which were left on the cutting room floor because they lacked that special flavor which colors both bands. The riffs aren’t awful by any means, just forgettable, uninspiring, and stock. The vocals lack enunciation, making them a growly, shrieky soup much of the time – again, this is fine for the style, but coupled with the largely nondescript riffing it makes South to No Life sound completely amorphous.

There are lightly scattered moments of goodness throughout South to No Life. “Rot” smartly uses a quick break in the guitars to good effect, allowing the shriek of the title to be heard. The main riff in the song is rote however, which is strange because it’s used again with a slight alteration in “Casual Control” which directly follows “Rot.” “Exiled” sounds like a couple of old Entombed riffs played faster, and because I quite like Entombed this made the song more palatable. The rapid chugging in opening track “Ashley” shows that BRUCEXCAMPBELL can indeed make compelling riffs in the style, but the rest of the record shows that they cannot do so consistently. “Malice” has a solid riff or two reminiscent of old Terrorizer, which appeals to the classic Earache fan in me. “Brother Betrayer” contains one riff that could be classed as groovy, and I wish BRUCEXCAMPBELL explored this avenue of their songwriting more.

I love the Evil Dead films (even Army of Darkness) and I’m always happy to hear some extreme music in just about any form. Because of this, I wanted to like BRUCEXCAMPBELL a lot more than I did. Unfortunately, South to No Life does very little interesting with the thematic potential inherent in the band’s moniker and does even less interesting with the riffs. In a sense, this reminds me of tepid Christian pop-rock. In both, there’s a theme meant to appeal to a specific audience pasted on top of unremarkable music and beyond this packaging the art does remarkably little with the theme. This is bland deathgrind with a loose horror theme plastered over top, and most Christian pop-rock bands are like bad “secular”2 music where the aimless you-can-do-it-isms of “Fight Song” have God thrown into the mix. Again, I want to like this, but I’m given remarkably little to work with. BRUCEXCAMPBELL is a band I hope to hear better material from in the future.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 160 kbps mp3
Label: Give Praise Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: May 8th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Or Zombie Flesh Eaters, or Zombie, or one of the other myriad titles the film was released under.
  2. In my view, even good contemporary Christian music isn’t sacred music, it’s just whatever style of music it happens to be with a spiritual and/or religious message I broadly agree with.
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