Monday, July 19, 2010

Carnifex - Dead In My Arms (2007)

Apparently, the little angels and demons perched upon the shoulders of the members of Carnifex disagreed with my assessment of their debut EP Love Lies in Ashes, because they inspired the band to arm themselves with some new tattoos, increased attitude and a higher production standard, re-record the EP material and tack on some newer tracks for their first full-length effort, Dead in My Arms. But while the mix of this album might crush that prior offering, the music is largely just the same shallow, empty mire of brute moshing force and mock death metal sequences that we've already experienced, with no subtlety nor intricacy. You don't come to Carnifex to think or be inspired, my friends, you come to tear it up at the local club with all your high school and college adversaries. To let all that extremity and emotion hang out of your designer jeans and hot print tees.

I'm going to focus in on a single track here to display the tragedy that is this band in all its glory. "Slit Wrist Savior" is not a new composition, having appeared on the previous EP, but here it is as crunchy as clear we're likely to achieve. We begin with a double bass driven mosh/squeal riff typical of nearly any slam/death metal act on the planet, fully bereft of charisma or quality, while the vocalist Scott Lewis gurgles and snarls out Hallmark-card-gone-Goth poetry about a wrist cutter. About :45 in, the pace picks up to a thundering old school death metal rhythm, with a fairly bleak but inoffensive pattern of notes that is quite far from evil. At 1:00 you go into a slamming, thrash rhythm, and then back to a faster death metal rhythm, which isn't all that bad when the guitar melody arrives. Then a driving, melodic death riff, and a cadence on the snare, which is about to herald the onslaught of a HUGE BRUTAL MOSH RIFF. The riff sucks, of course, just the band jamming on low or open frets while the singer growls over them, before a brilliant secondary pause for a sample 'Fine, fuck you then', and ANOTHER sledgehammer mosh riff of no interest or curiosity whatsoever.

Yes, the two or three ideas that could have been developed in the earlier riff cycle are completely tossed out the fucking window so a cadre of mindless zombies at a live gig can get their freak on, windmilling and flexing their muscles and chains at the other gym-goers. Now, if you take this process and assemble it in slightly different patterns, you've come up with the remainder of Dead In My Arms. The band even toss in more samples of people saying things like 'what the fuck' before breakdowns, in other songs! If Carnifex is having a laugh at our expense, well then, I suppose, all the power to them, but then why waste a few minutes of this record on good riffing? Yes, there are a handful of considerate guitar riffs found throughout the album, like the burst intro of "A Winter in Remorse", which doesn't last very long; or about half the riffs in "Dead in My Arms", which evoke the melodic death of At the Gates from a distance.

But staring down the barrel of this band's limited arsenal of firearms, you can be assured that there is just too much fat to trim, fat that manifests in sluggish, chugging mayhem which is not even bordering on memorable. The lyrics are horrid manipulations of basic pop vocabulary or emotional hardcore that teach us all the woes of self-esteem issues and how tough and brutal life can be. With the same subjects in mind, an increased use of metaphor and imagery could actually render a more effective result, but these are all about bleeding and breathing and closing your eyes and suffering and beauty and ripping you apart! In other words, as effortless as a Lady Gaga or Beyonce track, if not more so. I can't help but feel Carnifex, as they appear on this album, are a soulless shadow of mightier metalcore of the past, when such breakdowns were pulled off by an Earth Crisis or Converge with far more sincerity. Now it seems they're products on an assembly line of brutal forgetfulness, being operated by minimum wage laborers who simply don't care too much except to occasional flip a button.

Verdict: Epic Fail [1.75/10]

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