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It's A Shame They Didn't Stick It Out - 93%

dystopia4, October 9th, 2012

Ecocide's demo, while a somewhat engaging listen, didn't strive to break any barriers. Rooted in raw crust punk, it's riffs drew from many different sub-genres of metal. While a good mix of riffing was present, it never swayed to far from convention. Ecocide's self titled full length is a whole different story. This is one of those albums that is almost impossible to pigeonhole. Their crust tendencies have remained, although much has changed. The two most notable factors in this change is the addition of atmospheric passages and a violin being added to the band's repertoire. With their debut full length, Ecocide has managed to push the boundaries of not only crust punk, but heavy music in general.

While a lazy person might want to lump this in with either crust punk or post-metal, there is much more going on than that. Post-metal comparisons would make sense - 90s era Neurosis (excluding The Word as Law, which is before Neurosis successfully came into their own) informs a large part of Ecocide's sound. Enemy of the Sun seems to be a particularly large influence on Ecocide. Although the riffs on Ecocide's album are varied, some certainly evoke the sludgy, lumbering riffs of Neurosis. An interesting twist is that tremolo picking is sometimes added to this style of riffing. Sampling played a large part of early Neurosis. The second half of “Static” consists of a mournful atmosphere with samples taken from film are being played. While not all that instrumentally similar, this evokes a feeling very much akin on the first bit of Neurosis's “Lost”.

The addition of the violin is perhaps the most important component in the development of Ecocide's sound. Played by the vocalist Heidi, they are the number one thing that pulls the band away the sea of orthodoxy and stagnation. The violin playing here is versatile, sometimes working as a provider of atmosphere, sometimes emitting a full-fledged aural attack. The interaction between the riffs and the violin are essential to understanding the function of the violin during the songwriting sections. Sometimes it will float in the background, adding texture. It will often play along with the riffs, creating a two-pronged attack. Perhaps the most interesting use of the violin is when it plays at the same time as a riff, just as aggressively as the guitar, but playing something entirely different.

The riffing on this album takes a different approach than on the demo. The demo featured riffs from a plethora of metal styles. The riffing is much more focused here. It's not designed to conform to genres this time, the riffs are tailored to fit the songwriting and atmosphere. In this way, it seems like much less of a mixed bag; on the demo it sometimes felt like they were trying to experiment with as many riffing styles as possible as a way of finding their sound. The riffs on this album waver between slow, doomy mammoth-sized riffs and faster, more aggressive riffing. The faster parts certainly make the band's crust roots apparent. These matched with Heidi's raspy yells evoke a gritty filth-covered musical environment. While these sections never completely becomes grindcore, the influence is definitely there. No matter the style played on rhythm guitar, tremolo is a frequent occurrence.

Heidi's vocals are integral to this album's success. Her vocals largely draw from the black metal rasp, while also borrowing from filthy crust punk. The barked style often associated with post-metal and sludge is also an apparent influence in certain sections. Although appearances are rare, there is a second vocalist who has a very deep, throaty growl. When he does make his presence known, it is in a very subtle way. The drumming also deserves recognition. Fills are frequently incorporated into the regular rhythm, which while never overpowering, offers something more to dig into. This is especially important during the slow atmospheric passages, where they add something more than sheer atmosphere to focus on. The near-tribal sensibilities of the drum intro to “Red as Fault” is a fine example of how the drums add extra depth and intrigue to the overall package.

It may be of no surprise that places with the most conservative culture sometimes have the most convincing left-wing bands (although Sweden's punk scene would prove great exception to that). The band hails from Texas, one of the most far-right places in the Western world. Rebelling against the society they call home, Ecocide is a very left-wing entity (which should have been evident by their name). While their lyrics do focus a lot on the whole “the planet is on the brink of destruction and it's all our fault” thing typical of the punk scene, their lyrics go beyond what critics would call preaching and complaining. “Static” focuses on the internet's effects on society, largely relying on metaphor and imagery to do so. This may remind listeners of what a few fellow crust punk bands have done, such as seen in Dystopia's “Control All – Delete” and Nausea's “Cybergod”. A deeper sense of lyricism than found on your average angry crust album is present on this release:

“Souls are smeared upon slate canvas
For the ideal, red on worn black
Life is torn, scavenged”

Sadly, this is Ecocide's only album. While this is an amazing album, it's hard not to get the feeling that this could have only been the beginning. With such a strong and innovative first attempt at an album, it is difficult not to think about what this band could have achieved. They set out an interesting template that could have easily been expanded on and experimented with. For those hungry for more, you should check out the unreleased track “Pain” on youtube, which is as good, if not better, as the songs on the album.

With their debut album, Ecocide have created a truly unique sound. While this could be called a fusion of crust and post-metal, writing it off as just that would be doing the album an injustice. Neurosis's early albums, which essentially established the whole post-metal (or whatever the hell they're calling it these days) sound, definitely had a crust influence, and they sounded nothing like this. Their influence can be clearly heard, but this certainly doesn't sound like an attempt at replicating the Neurosis sound. The violin is just icing on the cake – this album certainly would remain solid without it. This is one of those rare instances where a band comes out of nowhere and does something completely different and is wholly successful at creating a new sound.