Released: 2007, Century Media Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
When Montreal’s Despised Icon burst into the collective metal conscious with 2005’s sophomore effort THE HEALING PROCESS, it was like two of my worlds came together into one utopian entity—death metal and metalcore, hereafter dubbed “deathcore.” THE HEALING PROCESS tore down any pre-conceived barriers and went straight for the jugular with a dual vocal assault, vicious breakdowns, dizzying guitar runs, flawless tempo changes and insane drumming that breathed new life into the already-sagging swamp of metalcore. Fans of Dying Fetus, Suffocation, Kataklysm and Neuraxis came together by creating moshpits that were a death punch to anyone who dared enter. With two years of weather-beaten road miles now under their belts, Despised Icon unleashes THE ILLS OF MODERN MAN, an extension of their already established deathcore sound with ever greater musicianship, songwriting and throttling brutality. In between albums, a new breed of bands like All Shall Perish and Through The Eyes of The Dead emerged but with this album, Despised Icon maintains its place as leaders of the genre by delivering an unflinching exercise in death metal punishment.
Lead single “In The Arms of Perdition” kicks off the album and changes, albeit subtle ones, are immediately evident. Rather than delivering a pummeling death blow throughout, the band injects the music with a killer groove that binds Alex Pelletier’s (one of the best drummers in metal today) unrelenting drumming with just the right amount of melody. The breakdown that kicks in just before the four-minute mark will tickle the band’s hardcore-leaning fans while Steve Marois’ gurgling pig squeal adheres to the very tenets of grindcore. Marois and Alex Erian utilize the dual vocalist dynamic well; Marois handling the low- and high-end gurgles and screams with Erian adding his acerbic, mid-range barks and bellows. “Furtive Monologue” is a prime example of this synergy. Other bands teeter on the verge of novelty but Despised Icon virtually invented this sub-genre and the vocal patterns never sound forced. “Quarantine,” “A Fractured Hand” and “Tears of The Blameless” are bitter slices of metallic hardcore, owing much to bands like Pro-Pain. Exhausting in their delivery, the gang-style vocals and leveling breakdowns merge flawlessly with lurching time changes and the technical riffing of Eric Jarrin and Yannick St-Amand. Changing gears more times than a long-haul trucker caught in gridlock, “Sheltered Reminiscence” wavers between jangly, discordant guitars and flurried double bass. The biggest surprise, though, is saved for closing track, “Fainted Blue Ornaments.” Its slower tempo and slightly different vocal intonation shows the band maturing as songwriters and musicians. Pelletier’s drum fills are perfectly executed and Jarrin and St-Amand are given a lot of room to be heard, something that eludes them in many places due to the extremity of Despised Icon’s music. The song’s epic, melodic second half is an angle yet to be worked by the band but they pull it off very well here.
Sadly, Despised Icon gets instantly dismissed by many closed-minded individuals unwilling to get past the band’s hardcore influences. In fact, Despised Icon is one of the most exciting new acts to emerge in the last five years, due in part to their forward-thinking take on traditional death metal. THE HEALING PROCESS caught many off-guard by going so far “outside the box” in its mixture of genres and brilliant musicianship. THE ILLS OF MODERN MAN goes several steps further by honing the band’s already tight structure and tossing in a few surprises, as well. Genuinely memorable songs that differentiate from one another—a tough nut to crack in this genre—combine with technically-astute musicianship and slamming brutality to form what will surely be one of the heaviest albums of 2007.
KILLER KUTS: “In The Arms of Perdition,” “Furtive Monologue,” “A Fractured Hand,” “Tears of The Blameless,” “Fainted Blue Ornaments”