REVIEW: DESPISED ICON – “Beast”
I had never heard of Despised Icon before I picked up this album, so I was going into this album not knowing the history of these Deathcore pioneers. Even though it’s been seven years since their last release, I can tell that these guys have not lost their touch. But how does their latest release ‘Beast’ measure up to what the contemporary bands are putting out? It is not easy to return to form after a long break but Despise Icon make it look like a piece of chocolate cake.
Here’s the first thought that went through my mind when I first heard the album: “This sounds like Hatebreed but with death metal.” I think I felt that way because of vocalist Alex Erian’s vocal delivery and also because of certain riffs which were very reminiscent of stuff that you hear in hardcore. But death metal definitely forms the backbone of all the music. Steve Marois brings a different dimension to the music with his harsher vocal style and along with the breakdowns and his pig squeals they’ve added some slam and grind into the music.
The guitars have an old school vibe to them which makes the music sound even more aggressive. It reminds me of the tones that were prevalent in late nineties’ death metal albums. The guitars don’t sound overproduced due to the sort of distortion that has been chosen and helps create a thicker wall of sound with a lot of texture to it. Eric Jarrin and Ben Landreville on Guitar, Eric Jarrin on Bass and Yannick St-Amand craft the music Despised Icon into this aggressive, angry and unrelenting form of music which can sometimes overwhelm people who are not familiar with their style. Alex Pelletier on drums is impressive; I especially love his double bass style it is super precise.
The album does suffer with what I feel is an affliction that effects most Deathcore records; said affliction being repetition. There are only so many times you can hear a down-tuned riff or a breakdown before it bores you. Most of the songs on the album sound pretty similar; the only songs which have distinct passages that stick with you are the opening track ‘The Aftermath’, ‘Drapeau Noir’ and ‘Bad Vibes’.
I feel Despised Icon know the limitations of their music; almost every song on the album is about three minutes long with the longest song barely touching the 3.40 mark. This makes the album more palatable because a song will end before it starts to get boring, giving the listener a new song to listen and groove to. This packaging of pure aggression into three minute pills that you can easily swallow is what saves this album from becoming monotonous. This is definitely an album to be enjoyed in short bursts.
On the whole Despise Icon have released an album which is enjoyable but ultimately let down by its own genre tropes. However, Despised Icon does know how to play to their strengths and prevent ‘Beast’ from being just another Deathcore album by maximizing the impact of each song by compressing them into easily listenable bites of music.