by Justin Smith
In August 2021, Vancouver-based deathcore leaders Carcosa released their debut LP Anthology. Following in the footsteps of 2020’s Absent EP, Anthology sees the band ripping through 31 minutes of tight, technical and brutal metal. An impressive debut, the band demonstrates to their contemporaries what tight playing in metal should be.
On each track, the band employs a diverse range of harsh vocals, employing growls from the depth of hell to higher-pitched screams reminiscent of blackened-death metal giants Skeletonwitch. The band’s vocal prowess is best demonstrated on the track “Vermin,” where higher-pitched vocals on the verse are delivered at incredible speed, more reminiscent of rap than standard metal delivery, then seamlessly transitioning to a chorus with brutal growls underlaid with sorrowful clean vocals. Gang vocals accentuate certain parts, alluding to the exhilarating live performance the band is bound to deliver in post-pandemic times. An additional treat is the urgently delivered and distinctive backup screams provided by the band’s guitarist Andrew Baena. A highlight is “Absent: Post (Redux),” which features beautiful clean vocals on the chorus, providing serenity above the mayhem.
Instrumentally, the songs are driven by intricate drums, with rhythm guitars and bass often serving as an extension of the pounding kick drum. While the rhythm section is defined by tight, inseparable instrumentation, glued together into a cohesive whole greater than the sum of each part, subtle lead sections defined by unsettling synths and lead guitar add a refreshing (but unsettling) atmosphere. This additional layer is crucial for this collection of songs, creating a needed separation between tracks. “A Plague,” a track previously featured on Absent demonstrates the powerful ability of these melodic additions, using strings & synths to create an epic feel often associated with symphonic metal bands hailing from across the Atlantic. When the instrumental and vocals meet, the band is capable of delivering a sensory overload in its purest form.
Structurally, each song features an onslaught of riffs, taking listeners from mid-tempo headbang-worthy sections, through to breakneck speed passages and grind-you-to-a-halt breakdowns. While the songs can occasionally become a blur due to familiar instrumentation and fast-paced changes, they’re anchored by distinctive and powerful choruses. By the end of the album’s strongest moments, you feel as though the massive monolith of sound has taken you on a journey. The album benefits from quieter moments delivered through interludes, which provide a break from pummeling instrumentation and earth-shaking vocals. As these quieter moments linger, the anticipation for the band to come back in full force exponentially builds. The most cathartic payoff to a suspenseful build comes in “Vermin” – following the short-but-cinematic interlude “Spiral,” the band delivers a clever sample before exploding into their signature sound.
Occasionally, the wall of sound production on this record masks elements of the band’s technical prowess. While the drums and vocals take centre-stage, at points they drown out the guitar playing and make it difficult to tell what is being played. Subsequent listens allow for the riffs to shine through, however greater presence from both the guitar and bass could round out Carcosa’s impressive sound.
On Anthology, Carcosa demonstrates a maturity in songwriting and the technical chops to pull it all together. Small changes and improvements made to the final 5 songs, which appeared on Absent, show the band on a steady ascent. While Carcosa is just beginning, their path to near-inevitable domination of the deathcore scene is well underway.
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