Sure, metal can certainly terrify listeners with occult imagery and sheer gore, but delving deep into one’s own personal neuroses can often take someone down a much darker path. Inexplicable sadness is often a much more relatable and ubiquitous demon than anything you’d see smeared across a Cannibal Corpse cover (not that there’s anything wrong with that). For that reason alone, it’s become a much more prevalent topic amongst death metal’s most notorious and now unjustly-reviled subgenre. You couldn’t have picked a better title for deathcore’s most anticipated EP of the year, and you probably couldn’t have picked a better batch of current bands to tackle the theme of depression either. Thy Art Is Murder, The Acacia Strain and Fit For An Autopsy are collectively as soul-bearing as they’ve ever been, and they’re still churning out brain-melting breakdowns in the process.
This three-way split is mostly business as usual for all parties involved during the first half. No one has changed styles overnight, but The Depression Sessions is caked in a much thicker, gloomier and more morose atmosphere than just about anything you’d find on deathcore essentials like Hate, The Dead Walk and Hellbound. Yes, the Thy Art tune still rides the blast train straight to riff town, The Acacia Strain are still belching out some of the most ignorant chugs in the game, and Fit For An Autopsy continue their streak as the band with the best pitch-screams in their scene. But long-time fans of any of these acts should be able to see that these tunes feel much more introspective and less overtly-violent than before, despite how absurdly pummeling the end of each original track eventually implodes into. The best song of the bunch has to be Fit For An Autopsy’s “Flatlining,” an impressive synthesis of Gojira worship, meaty grooves aplenty and the only real semblance of a hook that you’ll get for the first fifteen minutes of the record. It’s also nice to get one last track out of vocalist CJ McMahon, who unexpectedly left Thy Art late last year. His range, confidence and pronunciation are all at the top of their game here and it’s great to have one last parting gift from one of deathcore’s best vocalists in years.
Each band should also be commended for picking unexpected cover choices and not taking things down a much more predictable route. The b-side of The Depression Sessions may seem strange at first simply because it’s hard to imagine just about any deathcore act covering Rammstein, Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails, let alone bands with such established sounds. Rest assured though, “Du Hast,” “Black Hole Sun” and “The Perfect Drug” are all transformed and contorted to fit each band’s aesthetic, and mostly succeeds. The Acacia Strain actually feel like they’ve taken more risks as a band with “Black Hole Sun” than they have in quite some time. Vincent Bennett’s vocals finally begin to establish subtle melodies from time to time too and truly feel like a genuinely inspired moment for the band. It might just be a one-off thing considering the fact that the band has to follow Chris Cornell, but hopefully this new-found way to convey genuine misery yields great results on The Acacia Strain’s future releases. Plus, who ever thought that “Du Hast” and blast-beats would go together so well?!
The Depression Sessions leaves no time for bullshit and begs to be repeated and memorized. It may not be as immediate as something like “Reign of Darkness,” but it’s about as musically daring as most of these groups have been in their entire careers. With how cohesive and likeminded this project feels despite its obviously-scattered creation, it would be a shame to not see something again in the future. The Depression Sessions will make you wish it was a full-length record, and for that reason alone, its done its job.