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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.