Some people spend their weekend running errands, and I’m no different. This weekend, as I write this review, I’ll be running a fool’s errand and disagreeing with the genre tag of a “deathcore” album. Genre fans and detractors will have the same reaction: “who cares, it’s all about the chugs anyway.” You chug water for different reasons than you chug beer (unless it’s Coors Light, which is both). The Rack chugs and Eternal Nightmare chugs. Disma chugs and Carnifex chugs. All of this is to say, Eye of the Destroyer’s second LP is beatdown, not deathcore.
Why does the beatdown tag matter? That’s a relatively simple answer: because Baptized in Pain is not a terribly good deathcore album. Now, unlike failing at deathcore on its own merits like the woefully disappointing new Mental Cruelty album, Eye of the Destroyer doesn’t sound like they’re trying to be a deathcore band. They’re trying to do beatdown with a few death metal influences, making aggravated beatdown or some other superfluous tag. Beatdown tends to be more in line with the aggro hardcore stylings of Terror but beefed up with more extreme metal trappings. It’s not unlike Internal Bleeding but lacks the effortless genre-hopping charm and songwriting chops of those NY slam titans. Nonetheless, that tough NYHC aesthetic – think also Madball – pervades Eye of the Destroyer’s work here. This doesn’t sound like Whitechapel, Oceano, Carnifex, or Job for a Cowboy’s excellent Doom. It sounds like Madball or Terror flavoured with a vastly simplified Suffocation sauce, focusing of course on the slamming parts of the pre-slam slam legends. Put simply, Eye of the Destroyer will be disappointing to people expecting The Somatic Defilement, Depths, or even something like the latest Chelsea Grin.
Having expectations in check, we can move on to how Eye of the Destroyer fares in their chosen field. A cursory look at the cover art (particularly the font) and its street aesthetic tells us that Baptized in Pain is concerned solely with being hard – Christ is on the cover more as a memento mori than as a symbol of salvation. “Starved and Hanging” bludgeons with its catchy use of pinch harmonics in the chorus, which is bolstered by some tasteful, almost subtle bass drops. The use of gruff half-sung vocals in spots – akin to A Perfect Murder’s War of Aggression – is well done and adds to the song without being used as its hook. “Stalked and Slain” sounds a lot like Internal Bleeding, but as mentioned above lacks the complexity and songwriting chops of those guys.
Eye of the Destroyer remain steadfastly loyal to their narrow niche here, providing no surprises whatsoever but a whole bunch of beefy riffs on the slower side of things. Some unintentional hilarity arises in “Endless Suffering” where the Wu-Tang Clan’s classic “C.R.E.A.M.” is referenced by an oft-repeated refrain of “death rules everything around me/dreams.” The only thing missing is Method Man chiming in somewhere, ideally about one dollar bills. The main issue that lessens the staying power of Baptized in Pain is how long it is. Forty-six minutes isn’t a huge ask time-wise, and is basically the Official AMG Recommended Album Length. However, this type of music doesn’t carry well into those lengths. Cerebral Incubation’s Bifurcation of Primordial Slamateurs is similarly one-note, but it limits itself to twenty-odd minutes of fun instead of forty-six. There are sixteen tracks here (including an intro), meaning the average song is a little under three minutes long. Paradoxically, Eye of the Destroyer recognize that this style is best served in measured doses, but only applies this correct insight to songcraft. It was left by the wayside for album construction.
The foregoing puts me in a conundrum, because on their own each song here is a decent gym companion, and there’s nothing outright bad here, and plenty of good chugs to be had. Some songs are marginally better than others, but there are no real fluctuations in quality. Baptized in Pain works best as a collection of songs instead of as an album; the track ordering is all but meaningless, and could be switched around without harming any momentum or flow. I respect Eye of the Destroyer’s admirable desire to give fans the most music they realistically can for their money. As an album, Baptized in Pain is overlong and grows monotonous near its conclusion. As a collection of songs, it’s good. The score reflects the former, and if the latter appeals to you, don’t sleep on this beating.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps
Label: High Potency Records
Websites: eyeofthedestroyer.bandcamp.com | eyeofthedestroyer.com | facebook.com/eyeofthedestroyer/
Releases Worldwide: May 17th, 2019