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Despised Icon are a band that has seemingly taken the metal land by storm over the years, becoming a part of a relatively new scene known as "deathcore." As with most scenes in music in the modern era, I was blissfully ignorant to its existence, as I generally don't absorb metal from mainstream outlets, nor any other brand of music for that matter. Yet a couple of friends seemingly in love with all the "br00tality" (I still don't get the double zeroes, but what do I know...) basically enticed me with relentless destruction and mayhem in this deathcore scene. You know what, this is precisely what I got.
I've come to see deathcore as something of a metaphor to working with a jackhammer without ear plugs. You are embracing a very loud and relentless machine that is not doubt impressive in its potential to wreak utter havoc, both on you and your surroundings. In the end, you feel a little hearing impaired, yet you feel no desire to ever do it again. The next time you embrace such madness, you'll smarter to stuff your ears with wads of cotton balls.
Of the bands I encountered, Despised Icon seemed the least offensive. Its still deathcore, which I'm assuming is a sub-genre of metal. You could have fooled me, since all the bands I saw ranged between slightly manlier versions of the whiney emo scene and some homeboys who prefer to growl instead of rap. I'm a tad confused, I never expected to see the urban outfitted taking up guitars and playing loud ass metal. This is the 21st Century and its embodiment of a cultural wasteland is more evident now than ever. Yet apparel and "threads" don't make a band. Music makes a band. In terms of sheer technicality, Despised Icon are more than commendable. Yet technicality alone does not make a good metal album.
I've noticed in deathcore that vocals and drums seem to be at the forefront while the guitars are more of an afterthought. We have a similiar case here, though not to the extent of other acts. We have mechanical sounding music that possesses no soul, and instead thrashes around like a mindless destructive force with little guidance or direction. Uncontrolled chaos, contrary to modern belief, does not equal good heavy metal. Yes heavy metal can be very brutal, but its also concise, intelligent, and has a purpose. Despised Icon misses this point entirely, instead creating something impressive in terms of musicianship, but making the final product incoherent and an exercise in tedium. Even when we do get some enjoyable moments, we are hit with another left turn or impending whirlwind of disjointed shit.
My biggest issue with this album is the vocal performance. Since deathcore is heavily reliant on the vocals driving the music, its no wonder most of it suffers tremedously. Alot of bands today use two vocalists, which I'm soon learning doesn't equal a two fronted vocal approach. Instead, the vocals are highly identical, throwing the listener for a loop as to why we have an excessive number of musicians. The vocals are the usual unintelligent growls and other nonsense meant to intimidate by being utterly disgusting and pointless. I'm not overly fond of death inspired vocals in the first place, but I am a big fan of Chuck Schuldiner and John Tardy, neither of whom I can see supporting this. I love to see vocalists and styles evolve too, but this is essentially the death growl's version of severe mental retardation. Couple that with the lyrics, and you're in for a storm of pure jack-assery as only "The Healing Process" can deliver.
For all its destructive power and technical prowess, Despised Icon's music is counterbalanced by sheer nonsense and disjointed boredom. Notice I didn't mention any stand-out tracks, because there really weren't any. Such disjointed songs rarely lends themselves to being memorable, one of the things I've always thought was a reason for making music. Even death metal can be memorable, such as Malevolent Creation, Death, and even Brutality's works of the early 1990's carried this aspect. All of these bands were also technical and indeed impressive, but their music was intelligent. I can't see this deathcore scene as a necessary evolution in metal's history, and much like metalcore, its worn out its welcome within only a marginal amount of time. I have no patience for this nonsensical form of metal, regardless of its brutality level, and will no proceed to ignore this scene until it is replaced within a few years when the scenesters grow tired of the trend induced monotony,
Hailing from the vast country of Canada are Despised Icon: a band spawned out of the infamous fusion between hardcore and seemingly death metal. The present exponential growth of bands of this new, so called "deathcore" genre even surpasses the late 90s' wave of Morbid Angel and Slayer "me-toos" that apparently is the newest trend in "brutal" and "aggressive" music. As metalcore established itself as a mix between emo music and groove in the early 2000s, deathcore emerged a bit later, adopting imagery more similar to hip hop or hardcore, than acutal heavy metal, as proclaimed in the 80s. As much as I would like to go on about the scene in general, I will save some for more reviews to come and go directly on with 2005's "The Healing Process".
Technically, The Healing Process may be over-the-top, as song structures are fairly complex, seemingly crescending into total oblivion and destruction of the counterpart. Guitar riffs are played with a vengeance, sawing through the speakers at full speed at times, whilst bashing the listener with doomy sounding slow sluggish riffs at others. They guys from Despised Icon are without doubt good musicians. But even being extremely technical makes you neither good nor impressive, nor heavy metal for that matter. This is exactly the point in why this Canadian destruction machine fails.
The mass executions carried out by Robespierre during the French Revolution in 1792 were the best example for a new system, or idea, can fall apart very fast, the same way the Revolution "devoured all of its children", as Pierre Vergniaud suggests. The same way Despised Icon is one of those new pioneer "revolutionists" who have a slight idea which course to set for modern day "metal", but in the end, fail miserably in effectively contributing to the nowadays dying metal scene. As an autist compensates for his talent with the loss of other traints, so does Despised Icon fail to bring any form of soul into their music, achieving only technical mastery. The music sounds mechanical and empty, the structures that are built, immediately collapse. Totally incoherent, horribly cacophonic sounding riffs and melodies, accompanied with typical groove "jumpdafuckup" aspects make most of this album annoying and difficult to relish. As soon as they get a nice groove going, the song immediately falls apart or continues with absurd disoriented parts.
Now I would really like to know why this band actually has two vocalists. Not only that they sound almost completely alike: desperate grunts both high and low that sound less like proud heavy metal, but more like a release of digested feces through the esophagus. The "pig squeals", as they are called, sound comical, onomatopoetically depicted like a swineish "RIGYDIGYDIGY". Simply put: monotonous random screaming and barking alternating from one voice to the other make the vocal patterns uninteresting and boring. The lyrical presentation is somewhat odd. As whoever writes their lyrics may actually have something important to say, about unmorality or social decadance and human degeneration, the execution is fightfully flawed, as reading the lyrics makes you realize that they have only been written to try and impress, but in a pseudo-intellectual manner, as if random words have been picked out of a dictionary. If one takes a closer look, one directly notices their profound meaning, namely (most of the time) nothing:
" [...] The soporific serenity permanently reflected in your charming face gives you jurisdiction. A soiled soul infects the spine during a segment of time. Particles of truthfulness suppurate from this almost perfect being. [...]"
In conclusion: Regression and steps taken backward. If this is what the scene that was once heavy metal has become and incubates, then woe betide us, for the future of heavy metal is grim.
This album is intense…from the beginning to the end you are pummeled into the ground with some of the most furious, technical metal that has been released in awhile. When I first heard this album, I had already been listening to The Red Chord for awhile and was looking for a new hardcore/deathcore band to listen to. My friend suggested this release and I am forever grateful to him. I enjoy mostly every second of this vicious LP.
The first thing that struck me with such a good impression was the instrumental work on it. Everything is real tight, from the drums to the guitar, and even the bass adds a lot to the work in a genre where bass is becoming less necessary. The riffs many times are ultra dissonant and it all just gets thrown in your face. The one acoustic break is scary as hell and works as a nice little break. But afterward, they make up for lost time with one of the fastest parts on the album. The drums on this record do not need to be talked about much; they are tight, really fast, and really impressive.
The vocals on this album provide a great deal of its impressiveness. The dual-vocalist blast gives the album a strong versatility in vocal style, putting it above many other death metal or metal/deathcore releases to date. Both really let it all out in incredible growls, screams, and yells.
The breakdowns on this album are also something that sets it apart from the rest. They are not as boring as chugging the open strings, they incorporate other chords and intervals into these headache inducing throwdowns.
Overall, this is a great album, my one big complaint is the tone of the guitars, it’s really sharp and when heard in contrast with other albums can prove to be a bit of a strain for the first song or two, but once you get deeper in, it becomes a lot easier to handle.
Mixed feelings always arise for me when an artist is scooped up by a major label (or as major a label gets when it comes to the metal scene). There are mingled feelings of happiness and derision; the former due to the band getting the budget and attention it (in theory) deserves, the latter out of accusations of selling out and, more importantly, a fear in a drop of quality on the part of a band that no longer particularly needs to struggle for their paychecks. While we can pretend all we like that such paranoia results in a better signal-to-noise ratio than normal, the fact is it generally does nothing more than breed resentment against various self-described factions of the metal community that does nothing but heighten the superiority complexes of everyone involved. For this reason, I try to reserve judgement for an artist who has made the leap to major label until I have heard their work.
So it is with some mild trepidation that I approach Despised Icon's second LP, 'The Healing Process'. After the release of 2002's 'Consumed By Your Poison' on Galy Records, Despised Icon floated around for a while before being picked up by Century Media just in time to release their second LP. I'd imagine there were some grumblings around the Quebecois metal scene when they jumped ship in that matter; the movement from a label with a fairly high level of intra-scene credibility such as Galy to Century Media, which could in many not inaccurate ways be called the Wal-Mart of metal today. Philosophical masochism aside, though, it was a no-brainer on the part of the deathcore artists to make a move. Perhaps their exposure resulted more in their success than any change in sound; they were finally able to tap the niche that they had sought all along, which resulted in rapid dissemination through the metal and hardcore scenes, making the sound more acceptable to the majority.
With Alexandre Erian and Alex Pelletier now firmly cemented in the Despised Icon lineup after their split release with Bodies In The Gears Of The Apparatus, this LP was released merely 3 months after that split. There is clearly another distinct change from the earlier material present on this release, which can be pinned on a number of factors, from the departure of miss Marie-Hélène Landry, the movement of Alexandre Erian to vocals, and perhaps a pinch of something that was once known as 'natural evolution'. The music on this LP is certainly a bit closer to archtypical deathcore, and has lost most of the grindcore influence that one would notice on their debut release. However, this does not mean that Despised Icon has gone the Gothencore route with their sound. Instead, what we have here is essentialy a more refined, orderly Despised Icon, with a renewed sense of focus towards their musical goals.
With the aformentioned loss of grind influence, one could say that 'The Healing Process' is somewhat less blistering, but more measured and calculated overall. Gone are the one-minute tracks of the previous LP (and gone is the excruciatingly short running time) and here are longer, more complex and developed tracks overall. Song structure is more organized, and the transitions between various movements, while still somewhat conceptually stilted, flow together technically in a much better way. 'Smooth' would be an appropriate word to describe the album, at least in relation to their earlier works; while others thrived off the energy of constant shifting in directions that they themselves seemed confused by, 'The Healing Process' seems to possess a more logical, traditional method of structuring that is at once more pleasing to the ear and more pleasing to the artist in each of us.
Kicking off with the track 'Bulletproof Scales', one can see that all of the past hasn't been lost: Despised Icon still has that rapidly changing spectrum of sounds, but now the sway to their breakdowns is less one of unsteadiness and more one of resolute headbanging, at least before the band tears into another ripping tremolo section. This track seems to have an introductory feel to it, with it's cool, drifting chords at the end of palm-muted chug sequences that seem to reflect a band that is much more in control of its sound than it ever has before. This is not merely due to experience, but also a matter of the improved technical skill of the band: everything is much faster and more layered overall, particularly in the guitars. While 'Consumed By Your Poison' possessed interesting guitarwork in the way rhythms and techniques were changed based off narrative theme, this idea has expanded manyfold in this installment, with strings that stop on dimes and glide smoothly yet percussively across the fretboard.
The second track, 'Silver Plated Advocate' is one of the highlights of the album. This shows Despised Icon completely and utterly in control not only of their performances, but of the listeners as well. This might be the most memorable track on the disk, with it's exquisite shifts into particularly dark breakdown segments and trademark Despised Icon drum experimentation (fans of the band will immediately recognize the absence of a snare drum during the breakdown portions, one of DI's signature moves), along with excellently unfolding and demonstrative vocal patterns. However, such patterns do pose a problem on certain parts of this album, such as on 'The Sunset Will Never Charm Us', a frequent joke between myself and friends over its awkward trade-offs and overly manipulated pronunciation and rhythm. At times, the album seems to be too vocal-driven for its own good, with lyrics that are at times haphazardly jammed in and instrumentation that seems to be more a background for the vocals to complete their narrative before cutting out at the end of that track's story. This is not a deathblow, but it is a highly noticeable aspect.
Lyrically, the departure of Marie-Hélène Landry has excised essentialy all of the French portions of Despised Icon's music. Reflecting the goal of the new album, the lyrics also seem more organized, with specific narratives present as opposed to the generalized criticisms of government or society or media that composed most of the words on 'Consumed By Your Poison'. Now, personal struggles are expressed through understatement and a more deep-seated odium towards individuals (who often represent the human race as a whole) than was present on the previous LP. The lyrics can compare to those on the debut in their structure (essentialy death metal writing within a metalcore framework), and there is a certain familiarity to the dragged out lists of moderately related metaphors all appealing to a higher general concept (frequently better illuminated by the title of a song rather than the lyrics). The vocal patterns, while somewhat clumsy, have improved in certain dimensions when it comes to delivering lyrics, such as on closer 'End This Day' with its anthemic riot shouts that seem befitting of a more developed band.
Production is generally similar to that on the first LP, though obviously somewhat less brackish and more balanced overall. Vocals are somewhat louder than the instruments, which mostly operate similarly in volume, including what is at times a fairly noticable and enjoyable bass. Probably the strongest criticism that one could make about 'The Healing Process' is that it still lacks full definition between songs, though there is a definite improvement in this regard when compared to the first LP. Unfortunately, the tracks still require a rather hefty amount of listening to fully differentiate, as the riffing patterns for many of the songs are so similar on a superficial level. However, I will say that there is little genuine recycling on this release, which is a pleasant change from many of Despised Icon's contemporaries.
Despised Icon always seems to be a band grasping at possible brilliance but just barely falling short each time. 'The Healing Process', while still not achieving that peak, is most certainly a step closer to that eventual goal. I genuinely believe that they will achieve such a level within their next few releases, and I for one am greatful for a band that for once seems to be going uphill.
This album represents one of the sides of death metal that’s still worthy of attention. While many frustrated musicians are stuck trying to pointlessly revive “the old days”, Despised Icon shows that death metal is anything but dead. It all depends on the musician’s capability and creativity and it’s obvious that DM will live forever, as long as we have bands like Psycroptic, Scarve, Anata and Despised Icon.
“The Healing Process” shows the most technical, emotionless side of death metal/metalcore (henceforth called “deathcore”, just for the sake of economizing my keyboard). While Scarve are technical and brutal, they are also somewhat subjectivity-inspiring. Psypheria also managed to ally instrumental ferocity with a sci-fi atmosphere in their excellent “Embrace the Mutation”. “The Healing Process”, in the other hand, is all grey. Almost all of the emotion vehicles a band can use were extirpated from its songwriting. No guitar solos, no keyboards, only one acoustic interlude (that has a purpose), very scarce melodies (well, it depends on your concept of “melody”). It’s ridiculous to talk about “clean vocals”. Only seeing red, heartless deathcore. The almost mecanical playing also contributes to the nature of the album: It’s like...to clinically torture and mutilate a victim, hearing the screams of pain the same way you listen to a love song, instead of just blowing his face off with a sawed off. This album’s sole purpose is to reduce the victim to a mere mess of blood and flesh.
And the victim is you.
Despised Icon’s instruments of torture are a very diversificated assortment of ultrasharp blades (or riffs, if you will), the morbid creativity to apply them in the most meticulously cruel way (their incredible instrumental dexterity) and the absolute brutality. Their guitarists are very skilled in sustaing the pillars of deathcore, which in my opinion are the breakdown, the tremolo riff and a good dose of tasteful brutal death slammig. These elements create complex songs with lots of time changes and jagged structures. They involve breakdowns, sudden hyperfast moments and some doses of dissonance and mayhem coming from the quad-vocal attack (screams, standard hardcore shouting, DM growls and some lovely pig squeals) and very present drumming.
The drums are also daunting weapon against you. With their good production (particulary the kick drums) and his nice performance, Alex Pelletier beats you into submission with the power of six men ruthlessly pounding you with their baseball bats. When the band decides to cut the breakdowns short, his ability shines. His speed does give you a genuine urgency and the control is perfect. When slowing down, he uses the kicks as a real percussive tool, interacting with the riffs and the guitar fills that connect the sections. The blast beats are there, fast as always and almost blurring with the double kicks, which are overall the most important element in Alex’s work. IMO he is up there with Dirk Verbeuren in skill.
The songs are different levels of torure, each one reserving you a new type of nastiness. “Bulletproof Scales” introduces you to this world of pain and defines the album's flow. Extremely multidimensional, this song shows the myriad of styles their guitarists can come up with, including lighning fast tremolos, simpler metalcore riffs and the insane break at 2:31. The latter artifice is used extensively in the album, making a great counterpoint to the slammy, downtempo passages. “Immaculate” shows an innocent acoustic interlude being absolutely ripped apart by the drilling guitars and 200mph kicking. The album has a lot of unorthodox, long riffs that are suddenly interrupted by shortrt ones, that are devoured by an fast break miles from nowhere and so it goes. Listen, for example, to “The Sunset Will Never Charm Us”. Always busy and unforgiving. “Warm Blooded” is more metalcore- oriented, recalling something composed by Deadwater Drowning.
I recommend this album to anyone interested in challenging, very technical death metal or metalcore. Absolutely detached, “The Healing Process” a victorious release that manages to fuse the best elements in death metal and metalcore to create an album that deserves to be among death metal’s upper echelons. Listen with attention.
...now I need some sweet ambient electronica. That was too much for me.
Finally, I’ve heard a metalcore band that doesn’t just stick to the same bullshit formula. Or is Despised Icon a death metal band that decided to add metalcore into their sound? Well, genre bickering aside, this Canadian band is kicking my ass with their latest release, The Healing Process. All but gone is the Dying Fetus worship that was all over the riffing in their previous album, 2002’s Consumed By Your Poison. Also gone is the squeaks and screeches of female vocalist Marie-Helen Landry. Now they seem to have a sound that can only be explained as Ion Dissonance and Cephalic Carnage raping the shit out of Hatebreed. Just when you think that a song has turned into an uninteresting slam fest, they step into high gear with a super fast, technical, gravity blasting assault that Quebec bands are known for. Vocally, we’ve got three main styles. The standard, less interesting Hatebreed’esq vocals, then some metalcore screeches, then we have some bottom of the sewer sludge low gurgles. The thing makes the vocals even more jizz inducing is that they seem to know how to perfectly mix them around. This is a great first release for them on their new label, Century Media. I expect many more people will be hearing this band name in the near future.
Being a fan of pretty much just brutal death, i decided to pick this up for shits. I was completely blown away at the musicianship and the intensity that these guys bring to the table. I listen to a little harcore hear and there and most of it is garbage. These guys know how to mix the flava in the batch!
They mix hardcore with death metal and create a very original sounding album. They mix the vocals from pig squeals to screams and balance it off perfectly. The drums on this cd are some of the fastest and tightest drumming ive heard in quite some time. He gravity blasts and all! hes genius. The guitars are very well done and have very strong structures to the songs. Very well played stuff.
All in all, the cd is pure genius and it is definently on my top 5 list of all time. This cd will straight up own you, and will suck you in. The cd will be in your player for a mass quantity of time. So what are you waiting for?!?! Go buy or download the damn thing!!