Those who liked deathcore in its mid-2000s heyday tend to go through three phases in the following order: 1) earnestly liking deathcore, 2) loudly decrying deathcore to demonstrate one’s extreme metal fides, and 3) earnestly liking deathcore again with the added fun of nostalgia. This nostalgia doesn’t make bad music good, but rather recalls times, places, experiences, and memories where deathcore served as the soundtrack. Those times made us happy, and the soundtrack is what it is because that’s the soundtrack we chose. It follows that deathcore made us happy at one point. The vicarious thrill of great memories scored by it bolsters the appeal of the sounds which drew us in to begin with. You may not be able to go home again, but sometimes spinning the old records left in the dusty crates is wonderful.
With the above in mind, The Machinist does little to remind me of the halcyon days of blasting early Whitechapel before rugby matches. Confidimus in Morte implements numerous core -core developments into its sound: The blackened edge popularized by Carnifex? Check. Attempting the powerful, anguished melodicism of Architects? Check. The djentrified nu-metal of Jinjer? Check. A basis of riffs so commonplace and banal that the record sounds like an ineffective exercise in genre aesthetics? Check.
It seems fitting that Confidimus in Morte’s opening number “The Sound of Shame” begins on the most deathcore of deathcore devices: the obvious buildup, a held chord with the vocals moving from loudly spoken to screamed, promptly launching into a breakdown. The song never finds its footing, despite hinting at something interesting in the use of sparse clean vocals and a good breakdown that’s more of a bridge than a climax. “Paradise Lost” does an admirable job with its chorus, wherein a hefty chug and good minor-key melody work to accentuate each other effectively. “As You Lie” has an aftertaste of later Lamb of God and The Haunted, which serves as an intriguing counterweight to the deathcore-by-numbers which otherwise dominates it. Clean vocals are used sparingly but effectively once again, but cringe-worthy “check out my Corey Taylor on Iowa impression” spoken-word-to-screaming vocals make the song unpalatable. This cursed vocal approach hurts an otherwise solid instrumental intro on “Everything is Nothing” as well, but that track has both the best breakdown and use of clean vocals on the entire record, so that minor irritation is mercifully outweighed by good stuff.
The flaws come harder and heavier than any riff here. “Empire State of Emergency” has a buildup only the cutting room floor of Slipknot and Korn could love, and it leads nowhere upon completion. Leadoff single “No Peace” puts clean backing vocals and synthesized strings to decent effect but is tanked by the lack of any climax or sense of progression; Whitechapel did this idea far better in “The Somatic Defilement,” and the paleness of The Machinist in that comparison is not just striking but shocking. Further, the repeated refrain of “You deserve this/There’ll be no making peace with God” is repeated so often as to become a mind-numbing vocal tic. It’s the kind of edgy tripe that gets printed in BOLD IMPACT FONT on the back of a t-shirt, but the incessant repetition makes it lose all its potential impact and meaning by the time the track trudges to its bitter end. To make matters worse, the song is accompanied by a garish torture-porn music video. Devoid of all narrative and artistic merit, it’s a joyless visual bludgeoning that is, at least, thematically consistent with the nearly joyless aural bludgeoning of its accompanying song.
In the end, Confidimus in Morte isn’t a compelling record in any sense of the word. For every good breakdown or riff, the listener is forced to slog through five uninspiring and immediately forgettable ones. Not all chugging riffs are heavy riffs; “Strength Through Suffering” serves as a good example of this, as do most other tracks here. Last year, Chelsea Grin recruited Lorna Shore’s ex-vocalist Tom Barber and released a shameless love letter to early deathcore on Eternal Nightmare. That record was fun, riffy, loud, energetic, and full of breakdowns and “bleghs”—everything I liked about deathcore. The Machinist represents the bad side of the genre: extremity without memorability, too much reliance on the vocalist to carry bad songs, and a salient lack of riffs and fun. As the saying goes, the more things change, the more things stay the same: what would be ignored in 2007 will be ignored in 2019 too.