01. Three Snake Leaves
02. Cutting Flesh and Bone
03. Knife From My Sleeve
04. Liver and Lungs
05. Dead Horses
06. Cloaked in Red
07. Beaten and Left Blind
When it comes to standing out from the hordes of extreme metal bands out there, which is more important—pure, unadulterated heaviness or innovative, memorable songwriting and song structures? I’d say a nice combination of both is necessary to make a great album these days. Most deathcore bands are so heavy it hurts, yet are hated on by many for their generic, recycled chug riffs and monotonous songs. On the other hand, if a band gets too technical, pretentious, or esoteric in the name of originality, they will alienate potential fans who have nothing memorable to latch onto.
Enter Phoenix, Arizona’s Landmine Marathon, who attempt to straddle this proverbial line-and somehow fail and succeed at it simultaneously.
Don’t get me wrong, their new album Gallows is a fucking ripper and a half. Landmine Marathon’s feral brand of meat-and-potatoes deathgrind is like an anvil to the face. It is entirely enjoyable, and not one single second of it sucks in the least. Frontwoman Grace Perry has an amazing voice, and her monstrous, passionate presence is felt all over the record. Guitarists Dylan Thomas and Ryan Butler bring fat, mean, down tuned riffs off all speeds to the table, along with some competent lead work and tasty whammy bar abuse. The rhythm section of bassist Matt Martinez and skinsman Andy York is definitely nothing to complain about either, they take the sound from big to huge and lock the grooves down to the floor.
They also do a great job mixing up tempos and styles throughout Gallows while maintaining a cohesive, headbangable whole. Wickedly fast grindcore will be flying by one moment (“Liver and Lungs“), delicious Bay Area thrash grooves the next (“Cutting Flesh and Bone“). Other tunes like “Three Snake Leaves” and “Beaten and Left Blind”, reflect an old school death metal influence, while album closer “Morbidity” plunges to the sludgy, slow depths of doom. “Knife From My Sleeve”, one of the album’s highlights, manages to pull off all of the above within a single song.
So what’s missing? It’s tough to put a finger on because Landmine Marathon do what they do very well, but for me it’s a lack of originality and memorability. I’ve been listening to the album for weeks now, and I really like it while it’s playing, but there’s not a whole lot that keeps me coming back for more. I think if you replaced Grace Perry on vocals, there would be very little that you could identify as that “signature Landmine Marathon sound” or what-have-you. To reference my question at the beginning, they are not heavier than the heaviest band you can think of. And while they do a great job channeling their influences, they are not the most original band either. So they need to find the happy middle ground that comes from writing great songs.
This is all very subjective of course, and there is nothing wrong with eschewing so called “artistic growth” for simply sharpening your blade to a more and more lethal edge, refining and improving upon your basic formula with each release. And that is exactly what Landmine Marathon have done. Gallows is their best, nastiest, most focused release yet. Don’t let the negative aspects of this review turn you off—you should check this album out, and I hope you love it. This band is very underrated and more people need to get into them. It’s depressing to think that bands like Landmine Marathon get overlooked by the masses while far less talented groups become much more popular. Don’t let them fall off your radar without giving Gallows a few spins or checking out their insane live show first. You just might regret it.