If there’s one thing Dyscarnate have taught me, it’s that other modern death metal needs to step up its collective shit. Formed in 2004, this British trio first caught my attention in 2012 with sophomore full-length And So It Came to Pass, a record which may as well have invented the term “chunky riff.” Combining the immensity of mid-period Behemoth with the hardcore swagger of Dying Fetus, Pass was less an album and more a destructive force, a riff monster that grooved like a motherfucker and crushed like a two-ton hammer. After vocalist, bassist, and founding member Henry Bates departed in 2015 to be replaced by Arceye’s Al Llewellyn, Dyscarnate has now returned with third full-length With All Their Might. I was already excited by artwork that looks like it came from an Atlas Shrugged reissue, but what of the music – does the band continue to deliver the punishing and hard-hitting death metal that will hopefully kick September in its power metal-filled ass?
Anyone who’s heard first single “Iron Strengthens Iron” already knows the answer to that question. Despite signing to Unique Leader, Dyscarnate have not compromised by becoming more clean or technical. Instead, Might is just as dominating and furious as the group have always been, upholding the previous comparisons to Fetus and Behemoth whilst also evoking a more brutal Misery Index. Opener “Of Mice and Mountains” shows this from the start, kicking in with groovy battering guitars that will make Killing Gods fans cream their shorts. The dual vocal attack of Llewellyn and guitarist Tom Whitty is also ferocious, with Llewellyn delivering a nasty high rasp and Whitty roaring with the most commanding growl I’ve heard since Nergal proclaimed “Slaves shall FUCKING serve!” Aforementioned “Iron” is equally crushing, stomping along with Matt Unsworth’s pummeling drums and powered by riffs that feel like a cinderblock being smashed repeatedly in one’s face.
What’s most interesting, however, are the fresh stylistic experiments that Dyscarnate work in. “This Is Fire!” sounds like a Periphery song in more than just title, with an opening riff that could have been pulled straight from that group’s back catalog. What’s even more odd: not only does the track work, it’s one of the best on the album, with a hooky implied melody in its screamed chorus and a closing Abbathian riff that proves the aural embodiment of the term ‘elephants marching.’ Late highlight “All the Devils Are Here” also evokes djent with its rapid Meshuggah-esque chug that sounds like it’s trying to Destroy.Erase.Improve your face with the back side of a hammer. Meanwhile “Traitors in the Palace” and closer “Nothing Seems Right” slow things to a doomy crawl, inching along on malicious clean picking while still working in some catchy chugs and swooping chords that strike with the force of a wrecking ball.
Gym music, jock metal, whatever – ultimately Might captures a feeling of utter power and domination far better than anything else I’ve heard this year. There’s something commanding about the vocal patterns, but also thank the production. While a tad loud, the guitars are boomy and explosive, and the drums pound with a fierce clarity that’s perfectly fitting for the music. At 39 minutes and eight tracks it’s hard to complain about the length, but sadly the same cannot be said about the pace. While not a total Achilles heel, there’s a lot of mid-tempo stomping here, and though “To End All Flesh Before Me” hits hard by mixing Tucker-era Morbid Angel with the colossal chords of Vader, follow-up “Backbreaker” is a good song that ends up feeling largely redundant in the context of the album as a whole.
Yet while a few guitar solos or another quick cut in the second half would certainly have helped, ultimately Might ranks up there with Sinister and Dying Fetus as some of the best death metal 2017 has yet produced. In their five-year absence Dyscarnate have lost none of their energy or rage, instead returning as a quivering ball of sheer inertia, a juggernaut of potent riffs and pounding groove that steamrolls much else of what the current scene has to offer. The fresh twists are intriguing, the variety keeps things interesting, but the sheer blunt force is what truly sets them above. Forget about technicality, speed, or wild genre-fusing – sometimes all you need is a band playing with all their might.