A man walks into a bar after a long day at work. A mushroom sits beside him, a real fun guy. The man orders a Stella Artois from the bartender and asks for it in a two-ounce glass. Perplexed, the bartender knocks eighty percent off the price and does what he is asked. “Bottoms up” says the man to the mushroom, who toasts to feces and personal growth in return. The man sets down the empty glass roughly, which gets the bartender’s attention. “That,” the man says to the bartender, “was some terrible whiskey.” This is how most metalcore reviews read by writers who never could stand the genre to begin with. They want it to be something it’s not, and when it inevitably fails, it faces the wrath of the mighty pen. Swords, thankfully, rarely harm metal bands—except in black metal photoshoot accidents, probably.
Destrage is a metalcore band, and the cover art of The Chosen One is a good representation of the music. Destrage paints in colorful strokes, not subtle but weirdly appealing. While it’s tagged as “progressive metalcore” (whatever that means), I hear the modern variation of the genre (influenced more by Meshuggah than At the Gates) with what may best be described as additional quirks. While not necessarily similar in riffing, I’m reminded of Protest the Hero, Strapping Young Lad (specifically The New Black), and System of a Down. Also present is the Southern metalcore flavor of The Holly Springs Disaster and Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, although not as prevalent as in Maylene. This is a weird variety of metalcore, made by a group of people who could likely play just about anything (each member of Destrage is a talented performer) and chose to do this.
To my ears, metalcore is about fun. The big melodies and the kinetic energy of breakdowns makes a colourful, obnoxious palate that’s based around hitting energetic sweet spots. My introduction to Destrage, the title track of this record, hits these spots. The song uses tension and release expertly, building up to payoffs that actually pay off. Vocally, we’re treated to screams and cleans as we should be. Mr. Colavolpe’s vocals are charismatic, which is half the battle. His tone and phrasing—the other half of the battle—are also good and, importantly, not annoying. The verse of “Hey, Stranger!” may as well be a hook in and of itself, but the song develops quickly into a catchy little banger, producing the expected (but no less entertaining) hook in its chorus. This is what makes The Chosen One a worthwhile record; once you’ve figured out the salient hooks, you can go back and find others which get stuck in your head just as well in less expected places.
While “At the Cost of Pleasure” drags a wee bit in its modern Soilwork-flavored emotional plodding, it’s not a bad song. It fits well into the track listing, lowering the energy a bit before the Dillinger Escape Plan-esque fits of technical riffing in “Mr. Bugman” make their appearance. These two songs sap some of the mana of The Chosen One, being good tunes but a noticeable step down from their predecessors. “Rage, My Alibi” follows in the train of mere goodness, being catchy but not vital. Again, Destrage doesn’t fail to impress—these are good songs underscored by great performances—but that mark of greatness eludes the band once the first three songs finish. I would stress that this doesn’t detract from the fun factor of The Chosen One, but when assigning a score to it, such things matter a great deal.
The Chosen One is a fun record that wants to be a fun record, metalcore that aims to impress by succeeding at being metalcore. Like the summer blockbuster with bright explosions and a happy ending, The Chosen One is not critic bait and it doesn’t try to be. Destrage claims to have made a record that aims to inspire hope and confidence in people. This is the opposite of critic bait in film, which is often nihilistic, gritty, and revels in moral relativism and/or overt politicization. When leaving the summer blockbuster, if it’s done well, theatergoers tend to feel sated, happy, perhaps energized. The Chosen One has the same effect, especially with the reprise of its best hook from the first track in the final track, tying the whole experience together. It’s nice to be happy and sated, and Destrage had just that effect on me.