It’s time for a confession. When it comes to deathcore, I basically had my mind made up on which release was my favourite this year. While there hasn’t been quite the glut of release in this genre as there has been in doom or death metal, what has been released has mostly been quality. I won’t show my hand on which I thought was the best of the year, but I can say that this pick is now in question thanks to Relics from Italian progressive deathcore stalwarts Despite Exile, which releases November 17 on Lifeforce Records.
As belied from the cover art, this album is going to have somewhat of a seafaring theme. Also, that cover art is pretty cool eh? As often is the case on albums in this genre, the opener is a rich instrumental track, “Ghost Vessel: Adrift” (which admittedly sounds like the title of an anime series), leading off. It’s a string-laden affair that manages to set a real cinematic tone with a somewhat memorable melody. This song leads to the first deathcore song on Relics, “Absent Foundation”, and it immediately lets the listener know that Despite Exile ain’t playing around. The sonic atmosphere is still here, but added in are blast beats for days and some tasty riffs that get things going. The vocal attack is relentless: brutal, but diverse.
What becomes clear after just a few tracks into this record is that this is a very ‘listenable’ album. That comes from two things, in my opinion. The first of which is the magnificent production. Songs never lose their intensity, but there is a sonic pleasure in each song on the album that comes from being mixed well and it just sounds great. I know this is probably a vague oversimplification, but put your favourite headphones on and give this a listen. The second is that the song structures are familiar enough to not be completely foreign, but with enough wrinkles to keep the listener intrigued. Speaking of songs, let’s look at another one.
Near the end of the record, we are treated to the song “Of Imaginary Shipwrecks”. The opening of the track is pretty straightforward, but showcases some of the album’s best guitar tone, excellent drumming, and one of the more notable breakdowns on Relics. The incorporation of the breakdown into the vocal lines and the melody that dances along in the background is a real treat. The record wraps up with “Ephemeral”, which is one of the more airy songs in the tracklisting. It’s a nice way to close out the album. Now, onto the verdict.
Simply put, this is a real standout effort by Despite Exile. While their discography is already impressive, this is by far their crowning achievement. While I have a few small gripes, namely the compression and lack of big moments, the album is solid nonetheless. While you’ll need to be a fan of deathcore to enjoy the album, as it is undeniably deathcore, it is an album that I would consider a gateway for those intrigued, but not convinced by, the genre. I’m not sure if this record puts Despite Exile at the top of the wriggling deathcore heap, but they can certainly see the pinnacle from here.
Notable Tracks: “Absent Foundation”; “Relics”; “Of Imaginary Shipwrecks”
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