Idaho quintet Extortionist
formed in 2013 in Coeur d’Alene, with the following year marking the release of their debut EP “The Black Sheep
.” A few years and singles later, they would put out their first full-length album in early 2017 called “The Decline
I learned about Extortionist
’s music through a compilation video back when they released “The Black Sheep
being initially drawn in by their dark, murky sound and creepy album cover, I walked away underwhelmed. It had its moments, but not only was it rather generic for a deathcore EP at the time, but the writing was pretty dull, and the sound-mixing was even more so; frankly, if I still gave numerical ratings, I'd give it a 5 out of 10, tops. Regardless, part of me was still interested in what direction the band would take after this debut, leading me to try their latest outing to see how their music may have evolved; As it turns out, “The Decline
” is more than a sign of improvement; it's a deliciously destructive and dynamic record from start to finish.
Right out of the gate, the most remarkable aspect of “The Decline
” is its marriage between brutality and gloom. Just one look at the less-than-cheerful artwork (Courtesy of graphic artist Hari Fadil and vocalist Ben Hoagland), depicting a distraught man slumped against a desk littered with pills, used cigarettes, and alcohol bottles, signifies that this album isn't exactly a cheerful one. There are plenty of bands of the same genre who go for this mood, but they tend to turn out more-or-less the same; either as slow-paced chug-drenched deathcore (i.e. Feign, Bodysnatcher
) or as somewhat more fast-paced hardcore with higher-pitched screamed vocals (i.e. Sworn In
). Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with this, but what makes “The Decline
” stand out is that it lands right in-between both sides of the spectrum, with the heavy side being balanced out by the more emotional, angsty side, creating a mix that is all the band’s own.
There is no shortage of songs here that best demonstrate this deadly mix in action, right from the very beginning. The opener “Regression” creeps in with an ambient entrance before suddenly bursting into a tirade of aggressive vocals and equally potent instruments, perfectly setting the stage for what the audience is in for. What follows is “Guilt,” dishing out blistering, heavy grooves mixed-in with angst-ridden vocals (Featuring guest vocalist David Libert of Barrier
), keeping a single, steady pace throughout without losing any of its violent momentum. Other highlights include the nightmarishly fast-paced “Animosity” and the title track, an atmospheric interlude complete with a monologue dwelling on loneliness and anxiety, followed by the appropriately explosive closer “Imbalance
.” It's highlights galore in this record, and is hardly a dull moment that goes by throughout its running time.
Of course, no good album would be complete without good musicianship,; “The Decline
” has that, too. Granted, the main vocals are a little monotonous, mostly just consisting of the same mid-to-low-range growls throughout; they sound good, but there is a noticeable lack of range. Thankfully, there are a couple of guest vocalists to help bring a little more variety to the table. As stated earlier, David Libert from Barrier
lends his vocals in "Guilt," belting out screamed vocals expressing regret and self-loathing (“I would do anything to put my thoughts at ease!”). Adam Warren of Oceano
also has a moment in the spotlight in "Malediction
," dishing out his signature low gutturals during a sickeningly slow-paced moment part-way into the song. They’re great and fitting additions to the album’s vocal roster and help break the monotony a bit.
, the instruments (The guitars and drums, to be specific) also hold their weight rather successfully. The guitars aren’t anything that innovative when it comes to the deathcore genre, consisting of a lot of the chugs and brutal riffs we’ve come to expect of the genre; the good news is, however, that it doesn’t need to be. They have so much ferocity and are written into the music in a way that keeps the guitar-play from becoming stale and repetitive. It also helps that every now and then, there is a particularly impressive moment involving it, such as the brief melodies in “Neglect.” The drums are also very solid, boasting plenty of energy and some technical prowess while keeping the technique simple enough to absorb easily.
Lastly, “The Decline
” also has great production values, being recorded and mixed by Calvin Russell of DJSM Studios. He did a spot-on job bringing every vocal and instrument involved to life. Everything sounds crisp, clear and powerful, and a lot of the music’s haunting atmosphere derives from how full-bodied and heavy the instruments sound; this makes for a versatile sound that helps in making the album so memorable. Also helping this record are some of the post-production sound effects that reinforce the music’s dark and ferocious tone, such as the guitar stutters during the last third of “Animosity” and the high-pitch guitar shrieks in “Regression” (Although they can be a tad too loud at times compared to the rest of the song). To wrap things up, the mixing is certainly on-point here.
“The Black Sheep
” may not have exactly been impressive, but its successor has definitely takes on that mantle. Even in a world where so many deathcore bands are working the same tired formula and churning out the same generic tunes, Extortionist
manages to come into their own with tight musicianship and writing. Most importantly, however, the album’s biggest strength has to be its distinct balance between its sheer deathcore-style chaos and doom-laden atmosphere. It may not be the most original or innovative record out there, but this full-length release is an incredibly solid and entertainingly dark specimen that crushes any expectations, and then some. This is no decline.
Originally posted on: http://metaljerky.blogspot.com/