Deathcore may be going through a healthy phase right now and that’s due to the abundance of material out there. It is another case that brings to mind the standard bell curve where the majority is quite similar with small amounts lying on the fringes of the scale. Just like any genre or subgenre with a reasonably sized sample and enough eager ears, the vast majority of deathcore albums seem to have lots of similarities while only a select few are either downright deplorable or clearly outstanding. Carnifex, a band from the south of California, is one of those bands keeping the center of the curve alive and well. Their output is pretty much what you would expect from a deathcore band these days with the added bonus of the experience of five full-lengths already under their collective belts. In terms of overall sound and performance, Carnifex do a very good job at putting a deathcore album together.
This year sees the release of the band’s sixth effort Slow Death which strictly adheres to all the proverbial industry standards. The boys are predictably heavy handed with breakdowns, methodical chugging riffs, relentless pummeling drums and ever shifting vocals. Having already found relative success with the five preceding albums, this is a group of musician that knows what it takes to replicate previous results, despite the inherent risk of self-repetition. This is a ten track, thirty seven minute affair with absolutely no surprises, twists or turns. “Dark Heart Ceremony” gets things started with a dark, brooding keyboard intro that sets the mood for some blasting, chugging and screaming. Breakdowns are an ever-present element throughout this album as they serve as reference points between different sections like on “Drown Me in Blood” and “Six Feet Closer to Hell” for example. “Black Candles Burning” is a more straightforward death metal-type affair with a more evil aura to it. Even when the inevitable breakdown comes, it creates an interesting contrast to what came before it which makes for a smoother flow. Aside from this one and maybe “Countess of the Crescent Moon”, there’s just very little to tell the tracks apart.
Slow Death is a typical deathcore album that holds water today and maybe for a couple of years down the line, but it’s very difficult to imagine it being any sort of turning point for the subgenre or for Carnifex as a band. The job done on this record is definitely a decent one; from the individual musicianship to the logical song flow to the production. The main takeaway is that Slow Death plays out as a short shelf-life record with little to distinguish itself from the similarly entertaining but equally short sighted records released around it. The positive note here is that Carnifex sounds like a band that’s very comfortable in its own skin but this goes hand in hand with a disinterest in evolving. They seem to be happy doing their thing and getting better at it by practice which is fine today but pushes them further and further towards the middle of the pack and makes it difficult for their output to stand the test of time.