Like it or not, a whole bunch of the staff at Heavy Blog “grew up” on deathcore in the mid to late 2000’s. Some love to admit it and some loathe to—some didn’t listen to it at all because they were clearly more well-adjusted to life and stuff. With a decade of deathcore now (well and truly) behind us, it’s probably an appropriate time to look at some of the genre’s most notable releases in that time. As it’s 2017, let’s start with 2007 (well done, mathletes) and the first full length from California lyric shirt pioneers Suicide Silence. If your favourite deathcore release came out in 2006 then sorry, look elsewhere.
OK. We all know The Cleansing wasn’t the first trve deathcore release. That’s an argument for another day on a different site though. To argue that this record isn’t an essential milestone in the evolution of the genre however, well…that is akin to pissing in one’s own face. Let’s start by looking at exactly what made Suicide Silence’s Century Media debut so vital to the world of breakdowns, brees and bullish merchandising tactics. It’s finally time to pull the trigger, bitch.
It’s little wonder why this band became so big almost overnight. Kids who caught the tail end of nu-metal wanted low end in their lives without the huff’n’puff attitude that the metalcore army was spewing out en masse. The NWOAHM was fun but there were only so many At The Gates riffs that could be recycled and repackaged with halfhearted, life affirming messages. “Unanswered” and “The Price of Beauty” were an antidote of sorts for the kids who couldn’t latch onto the positivity generated by Killswitch Engage and co. They wanted to stick their fingers back up in the air and make sure everyone knew their thoughts on the glossy magazine media and more obviously, the church. Enter Mitch Lucker and his phenomenally marketable brand of nihilism.
Lucker was never a wordsmith, by any means. His lyrics were at times impudent and more often than not pretty straightforward. This isn’t to say that the eloquent “where is your fucking God?” or the boorish “doctors won’t be able to recognise your fucking face” don’t warrant their position in the annals of metal memery. More importantly, they deserved their place upon the backs of thousands of angry youths with black jeans and ear gauges. Seriously, the all over lyric print of the back of death metal shirts didn’t know how much it would sell until The Cleansing came out. Lucker’s lyrics weren’t fancy but they struck a chord with fans and they were the perfect mix of hostile, bitter and self awareness. He knew what he was doing, for sure. He wanted to scream about the things he disliked and he wanted people to sing along with him. The messages might have been simple, but they were crystal fucking clear.
Musically, this is the best Suicide Silence album too. Growling, bottom-fret riffs and simple kick-snare patterns meant fans could play their air instruments proficiently at home; in sweaty anticipation of getting into a pit to vent some of the atypical feelings found in most fans of death metal. The riffs were rooted in death metal but dumbed down just enough as to make sure no fans were left perplexed by string skipping or complex time signatures. Big squeals and beats that necessitated headbanging were peppered right through the record, all tied together with huge deathcore choruses. A deathcore chorus is a breakdown by the way. Don’t let the modern version fool you. No cleans, no hooks, just open notes and wheel kicks.
If only bands of this ilk kept the same production values, because The Cleansing kinda sounded like shit. That was part of its charm. It didn’t sound like Despised Icon or Whitechapel and was closer to Korn than Cannibal Corpse. Listen to the messy, brown note breakdown a third of the way through “Bludgeoned To Death”. Filth.
Seriously, more bands (including Suicide Silence themselves) should have ran with the overblown, low end heavy sound. A shift towards gated, precise edges in the music got rid of a lot of the animosity and feel of the early attacks of deathcore. This would go on to benefit certain acts (Fit For An Autopsy being the obvious example) and it was probably inevitable; all the fucking djent bands came out of nowhere with their computer-generated guitar tones and fucked it for those who thrived in the muck. If The Cleansing came out now, it would be called sludgespeedcore or something fucking redundant like it. That’s how shitty it sounds compared to more modern offerings.
Is this the most important deathcore release of the last decade? No one knows. The Good Lord Beelzebozo himself couldn’t answer that. Held against other releases of the same year, it’s one of the best without a single doubt. Suicide Silence were on top of the world when this came out and their fans were right up there with them. That’s how powerful this band were. ‘Were’ being the operative word in that last sentence. Enough can be said about them taking the new direction and failing miserably, that’s not for here. Just look back at how good they were and weep. Partly because Lucker will never get to write another fantastic line, fit for a garishly designed black shirt. Partly because nu-metal simplicity and death metal attitude will never be so finely blended again.
Make Deathcore Great Again? Nah, don’t bother. Just listen to The Cleansing.