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CARNIFEX Slow Death

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Monday, August 8, 2016 @ 1:31 PM


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CARNIFEX
Slow Death

Nuclear Blast Records




If deathcore is your thing, it doesn't get much deathlier or, umm, “core-ier” than San Diego's CARNIFEX. The low-end tank battalion thrum, the lurch-and-heave breakdowns, the technical flash and blasting sprints, the vocal histrionics that careen between bowel-scraping growl and F-16 roar, it's all there in abundance and the band has honed it to merciless perfection over the past decade – minus one short hiatus in 2012/13.

CARNIFEX returned even bigger and badder after that break with 2014's Die Without Hope and carry that momentum forward with its sixth and latest full-length Slow Death. The new album blends all of the above with a healthy splash of black and symphonic metal to give things a bit of a twist, which is welcome. Indeed, “Drown Me In Blood”, “Necrotoxic”, “Six Feet Closer To Hell” and “Countess Of The Crescent Moon” at times echo DIMMU BORGIR with their ample swirling keyboard accompaniment, furious tremolos and Scott Lewis' shriekier vocals.

The band has dabbled with this before, but not to this extent. And while these songs still retain their deathcore, well, core, they are sufficiently blackened that their influence is not only obvious, but prominent. To its credit, CARNIFEX mash it all together with a surprisingly deft hand, getting the components to work with one another and maximize their impact instead of against each other and turning it all into a sonic shit-storm – or merely coming off as EMPEROR sound-alikes. Even when the band is at its deathcore-iest here, there is a near constant presence of piano or a wash of synths in the background, from the plaintive intro of the opening track “Dark Heart Ceremony” onward, that gives Slow Death more depth and an epic, almost Goth-like feel that brings to mind WINDS OF PLAGUE, though by no means as garish. This helps temper CARNIFEX’s signature bludgeon to a certain degree. And while the album is still oppressively heavy, it also is modestly more inviting than the band’s previous efforts.

Fellow deathcore belligerents WHITECHAPEL adopted a similar strategy with its recent album – also its sixth – Mark Of The Blade, though by going in a rappier and somewhat more earnest direction, with mixed results. CARNIFEX keeps things in relatively the same ballpark with Slow Death – no clean vocals, no quasi-ballads and nearly unceasing aggression – and just spray the ball around a bit more, and with greater success.

For all of its “epicness”, Slow Death’s 10 tracks – including the acoustic interlude “Life Fades To A Funeral” - still clock in at a tidy 37 minutes. The frills are layered over instead of tacked onto the songs, offering more nuance while keeping the band’s brutally efficient delivery intact.

The sound is immense, and hits as hard as ever - co-producer Mick Kenney of cacophonous industrial black metallers ANAAL NATHRAKH no doubt helped in that regard. There are even a few moments, as on the guitar shimmer and electronic tinges of “Black Candles Burning”, that have a NATHRAKH-like tang, which isn't the worst thing in the world.

As someone with a fairly low tolerance for deathcore, I can't say I expected much from Slow Death. But like the bruising Die Without Hope, the first CARNIFEX album I actually liked, it caught me off guard. The mish-mash of majesty - in the black metal window dressing - and the band's usual might actually works, at least for me. Your results may vary, however.

4.0 Out Of 5.0

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