The inevitable collision of expectation and reality when it comes to new music has its roots in the initial album description pitched to listeners. This is where the pervasive dilemma of hype is born; what’s said about an album on paper has to balance the desire to attract interest with the actual music being promoted. Being on the receiving end of this endeavor provides a significant volume of case studies demonstrating why an overzealous approach can actually lead to an album’s downfall. The more genre labels and complex web of influences a band affixes to their music, the more they narrow the expectations of what a listener can expect. A fan can extrapolate unexpected elements of enjoyment from an album pegged with a simple stylistic description, but when they don’t hear much or any of the traits extolled by the band about the album, disappointment is inevitable, even if the music would be enjoyable in a vacuum.
Of course, this can be avoided if the the style of the pitch and the substance of the album do in fact align, as is the case with Low Estate‘s debut full-length, Covert Cult of Death. My attention was initially drawn to the the album’s release on The Flenser and the band’s stacked lineup, which features former and current members of Orchid, Panthers, The Year is One, Made Out Of Babies, Red Sparowes, Bad Powers and Sannhet. But then the pitch popped out at me and sowed seeds of intrigue and doubt, in equal measure. The album’s promised delivery? “Heaviness that exists somewhere near the low-end of black metal with a healthy dose of 90’s hardcore and a dash of The Jesus Lizard stirred in for good measure.” This is almost a textbook example of the types of album descriptions that either foretell a unique an eclectic experiment or oversell a passable album with some mildly interesting ideas. Thankfully, Low Estate have delivered the former of these two scenarios with a savage metalcore album that incorporates each of the above elements and beyond for a vicious assault.
In some ways, Low Estate are the foil of Kvelertak, in that they both synthesize subsets of hardcore with black metal but propel the sound in different directions. The path for Kvelertak is defined by a sunlit path headed to a backyard jam session, calling to mind influenced ranging from the melodic hardcore of Fucked Up to good ‘ol fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. Conversely, Low Estate’s vision of blackened hardcore is one where this bright, sunny scenario is demolished by a ferocious storm hellbent on leveling everything in its path. At the eyes of the storm is a solid metalcore foundation informed by the genre’s staples and newcomers alike. From Converge to The Secret to Église, Covert Cult of Death presents a metalcore haven that will make fans of the genre feel at home in new, intriguing territory. And with the infusion of black metal’s most viscous and heavy tendencies, Low Estate’s music surprisingly warrants comparison to Sumac and other similarly cavernous, aggresive post-metal bands.
After a brief atonal organ introit, Low Estate waste no time introducing their signature metalcore brew on “The Robe.” The band hammers out thundering riff after thundering riff, weaving in some of the intricacies of their stated influence from The Jesus Lizard. “From a Silver Tongue” keeps the 90s influences rolling with a methodical, Godflesh-esque sledgehammer riff which the band build upon with chord progressions right out of the Kurt Ballou playbook. Yet, what’s most impressive about Low Estate’s music is sense of refreshed familiarity, as if your favorite comfort food meal was cooked by an up-and-coming executive chef with farm-to-table ingredients. Case in point, “Comfort in Futility,” a track which presents a plodding metalcore dirge at its core but layers on heaps of sinister black metal influence along with tasteful synth tones and chord progressions that defy the genre’s standard formulas. And then there’s the epic “Circle of Error,” in which the band ties the sonic pallets of post-black metal with metalcore and pulls off an epic track which leverages the appeals and strengths of both genres. Finally, “Shame” puts the last nail in the coffin, with a chaotic performance that sees Low Estate allowing their formula to run wild for a violent finale.
There’s truly something for every metalcore fan on Covert Cult of Death, due in no small part to Low Estate actually following through on the sound they claimed to have concocted. With pummeling performances and songwriting that balances intricacy with brutality, the band prove that metalcore doesn’t have to be a stale, formulaic genre if you’re willing to bring outside influences into the fold. And with sights set outward and upward this early in their discography, there’s no telling what other concepts the band might embrace to further explore ad obliterate the limitations of their genre.
Covert Cult of Death is available 10/22 via The Flenser.