It’s easy to be sneery about deathcore. Its cartoonish extremes, horror movie lyrical subject matter and total devotion to the breakdown mean that the jokes virtually write themselves. Deathcore sounds like what your Nan thinks all metal sounds like. Throw into the mix a seemingly infinite parade of cookie-cutter bands slavishly following the tried and tested formula, and the witless, fist-swinging meathead fans who seem to think artlessly clattering into other fans is the best way to show their appreciation, and it becomes hard to take deathcore remotely seriously.
But those formulas coalesce for a reason. However many derivative variations on the theme may exist, there’s something about the transition from a warp-speed blast beat into some glacially paced chugging that provokes a physical response. That response might be to spin kick and windmill with scant regard to those in the vicinity. Or it might be a simple nose-wrinkling gurn for those of us who aren’t quite so infantile and centered. Either way, for all its ludicrousness, there is a time and a place for some well-executed deathcore. Which is where Osiah come in.
Osiah have been steadily building a reputation as one of the most unrelentingly heavy bands on the UK circuit since the release of their first EP back in 2013 Following it up with their debut full-length, Terror Firma,in 2016 and a touring schedule almost as relentlessly punishing as the songs themselves, Osiah have become a particularly well-honed and focussed machine. Indeed, if you are looking for a lighters-in-the-air ballad or even a hint of a cleanly sung vocal line, you won’t find them here. Kingdom of Lies is stacked front-to-back with eleven tracks of no-nonsense deathcore pummeling. So listening to Kingdom of Lies in its entirety is not completely unlike being attacked by a squad of hammer-wielding octopuses. Er, one might imagine.
Under normal circumstances, such little deviation from a theme can render at least half of an album redundant, but with Kingdom of Lies, Osiah have side-stepped this common pitfall. They have delivered an album that maintains the listener’s attention throughout, rather than feeling like a great EP pushed out to album length with filler material. It’s not hard to imagine any of the songs on Kingdom of Lies finding their way into Osiah’s live sets.
The key to Osiah’s success, beyond the avalanche of tremendously meaty riffs and thick grooves that Kingdom of Lies represents, are two additional factors. The first is a simply masterful command of tempo. Osiah’s songs are constantly shifting gears, often with riffs moving through numerous variations. Meshuggah fans may find some surprising enjoyment here. These dynamics, in turn, give the inevitable breakdowns such a mighty heft. The second factor is the towering vocal performance of Ricky Lee Roper. He delivers textbook examples of pretty much the complete collection of inhuman noises that deathcore vocalists have been developing over the last decade, from the lowest gutturals up to black metal screeching, via shouts, snarls and barks. There’s even a ‘bleh’ or two. It’s hard to think of another vocalist who has such a broad range in this space. The lyrics are broadly what one might expect from reading the script of a slasher movie with a slightly occult twist, in particular lead single “Reflections of a Monster”, but most of the time you’re going to need a lyric sheet to work out what is actually being said.
Ultimately, the best way to approach Osiah is in broadly the same way that you would one of those horror movies. At times, Kingdom of Lies may be gratuitously extreme, but that is kind of the point. Importantly, there is more depth to these songs than one might usually find, especially in the ruthless efficiency of the riffs, which are then bolted into particularly well-structured songs. This attention to detail makes Kingdom of Lies an even more effective delivery system for the indulgence of an almost primeval love a disgustingly heavy riff, and the barely restrained desire to kick a friend in the face.
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Kingdom of Lies is out May 3 through Unique Leader Records. You can pre-order the album here.