Sometimes, the best things come, quite honestly, out of thin air – that is to say, they just completely blindside you. This morning, for instance, I put on a pair of jeans I forgot I even owned, only to find, voila: a $20 bill folded up in the back pocket, as if placed there by a generous closet gnome or the $20 bill fairy (if only there was such a thing). Where am I going with this? Well, the punch line is really that the best things are sometimes the most unwarranted – take Necrospire, the latest release by Illinois-based quintet I Killed Everyone. I had little to no idea that the band was even in the process of recording a follow-up to last year’s Dead Peasants until the release date for Necrospire was announced. While my first thought was that the album would sound rushed or forced, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Necrospire is a wonderfully crafted release which capitalizes on the band’s unique blend of remarkably crushing, slamming death metal and their penchant for the deathcore breakdown to create an immersive, spine-crushing and skin-melting experience that is better than finding 10 $20 bills in your pocket.
Instrumentally, Necrospire is miles above previous efforts put forth by the band. Where I Killed Everyone previously employed moderately monotonous (but still completely enjoyable) chug-centric riffs and gratuitous abuse of the drop-tuned breakdown, they now use a much more intriguing song structure. This is evident not just in the band’s lead single, “The Devourer Beyond,” but even from the opening riffs of “A Sanguinary Mass.” Low, heavy drumming pounds like a meth addict’s heartbeat, creating a chaotic, intense backdrop for the pulsating, writhing bass guitar to weave within. While those two elements work in tandem to pave a flat, compact path to the listener’s ears, the guitars are busy clear-cutting, soaring high above the drumming and bass, taking the skies – and the listener – by storm. The opening to “A Sanguinary Mass” does brilliantly, contrasting an ethereal, haunting guitar line with break-neck, skin-rending drumming. However, without any warning, the song nose-dives into a blast-beat packed assault on the listener, with riffs just as fast and just as lacerating. “State of Filth” takes this dynamic one step further, oscillating between low, grimy grooves and lead-guitar driven, furiously-fretted riffs which tear away from the rest of the song’s elements, blazing past them as if they were standing still.
It would be folly, however, to think that in the midst of instrumental progression, I Killed Everyone have let the vocal aspect to their crushing, heavy music fall by the wayside. Necrospire’s vocal elements are just as punishing as the music which provides their support. The presence of new frontman, Tim O’Brien, is largely to thank for this – for his ability to toggle between a low, throaty growl and a fierce, high-pitched scream at the drop of a hat is simply magnificent. O’Brien’s performance in “Crucified and Consumed” is just as stellar as the track’s incredible instrumentation. Without mercy or warning, he reaches up from the clutches of an unfathomably low growl to a sky-high scream that hits the listener like an ice pick to the ears. This vocal diversity is an element which was missing on the band’s previous efforts, and is one reason that Necrospire avoids the previously assumed conception that the release might be rushed or forced. Furthermore, the assertions made by his vicious vocal performance are backed up by the album’s stellar and engaging lyrics. “Antipathy,” alongside both “Grimoire” tracks are excellent examples of this, as they showcase O’Brien’s vocals working hand-in-hand with the lyrics to deliver a no-holds-barred attack on the listener.
True – Necrospire is far from a disappointment. However, what sends it from “not bad” into “incredible” is the overwhelming dynamic created by combining slamming, riff-driven death metal and skin-ripping, flesh-tearing deathcore. While I Killed Everyone as a whole has certainly made much more frugal use of the previously-abused breakdown, it’s still there, just as bitter and bone-busting as it was before. “Necrospire,” perhaps the album’s highlight track, is the single best example of this on the album. Stunning, engaging fretwork runs circles around a pumping, pulsing drum line, creating a slowly building atmosphere, until, at the very apex of the pitch-black obelisk of sound, the switch is flipped, and the breakdown does just what it is supposed to do: break the song down. “The Human Error” does this as well, using a plodding, slow breakdown to truly crush the previously established, intricate song structure into fine dust. The use of riff-packed, insanely technical instrumentation alongside screeched-then-growled vocal brilliance, flowing smoothly in and out of crunchy, hard-hitting breakdowns is simply perfectly done.
If I Killed Everyone keeps putting albums like Necrospire out every year, I don’t think anyone would complain. Loaded with luscious riffs, pounding percussion, amazing vocal work and the heaviest, deepest breakdowns with the meatiest atmosphere that deathcore has, Necrospire is nothing short of a testament to deathcore perfection.