Slam death metal is not a genre name that is thrown around too often, and a lot of people, metal heads not excluded, do not even know it exists. Deathcore on the otherhand, is a term most of us are all too familiar with. The genres have many aspects in common, to the point where some bands blur the dividing line (Despised Icon). Both styles even feature fanboys who wear flat bills and hardcore dance. Ever heard of the term pig squealing? The vocal technique owes its birth and perfection to the slam death metal community and yet it’s the deathcore superstars that reap all of the fame and cash. Most importantly, the one aspect that not only rings true to both genres, but is the actual cornerstone to which they are both structured around is the art of the breakdown. It is this element that also divides them and keeps them seperate ideas, for now.
Slam bands perform their very namesake, the word “slam” is the equivalent of a breakdown. Slamming is more constant; chugging guitars with machine gun doublebass and a singer who sounds like the giant bull frog that lives beneath the tree in “Pan’s Labyrinth”. Slam death is also much more gore obsessed than your run of the mill Hot Topic sponsored, factory modeled deathcore band. Not to be mistaken with brutal death metal, slam bands usually do not include any technical flair, melodies or solos to speak of, opting instead to focus entirely on the heaviest slams possible. The crude unmelodic slab of hospital morgue cement foundation of slam is what Pathology constructs their brand of death metal on.
“Awaken to the Suffering” is Pathology’s 5th release, however they have only as of late been making much of a name for themselves in the underground, due to a record contract with the unusual label choice of Victory Records– that’s right, the same label that has released emo mallcore bands such as Atreyu, Hawthorne Heights and Hatebreed. I have listened to the previous album “Legacy of the Ancients” once or twice, and it was a pretty average piece of brutal death metal/slam fusion. Other than the single “Code Injection” I can’t say I remember a standout track on the whole thing.
However, “Awaken to the Suffering” identifies most of the issues of the previous record, corrects them, and improves upon the sound that has already been laid out in a pretty standard album progression. For a band like Pathology, the subtle changes in songwriting and an increase in technical proficiency was extremely needed. Fortunately, they tweaked their sound enough that their latest offering should please most death metal fans, and possibly become a gateway for future listeners to explore lesser known subgenres of death metal.
This is by no means a mainstream metal album, but through the use of guitar leads and a few well placed breakdowns more akin to the popular deathcore bands, Pathology has managed to write songs that you can actually tell apart. There are distinguishable heavy parts, blast beats, and melodies that are recognizable to specific tracks, and that really is a step in the right direction that slam death metal needs to take in order to continue being a sustained genre. In a way this is the slam record I have been waiting for, from one angle it is a solid release with a couple memorable tracks but nothing to write home about, and yet at another angle it strikes an almost perfect balance between two genres that have very different levels of notoriety withing the metal substructure.
It’s this bridge and the advancement of the song writing abilities of the musicians that sells this release for me. If you are a fan of Inherit Disease, Guttural Secrete or Devourment you will probably really enjoy this album based on its brutal death metal qualities. If you are a fan of traditional deathcore bands such as All Shall Perish, Despised Icon and Job for a Cowboy, there’s a strong chance you will find something to like here, and it may even possibly open a few doors for you. If neither of these genres are up your alley, you may not make it past the 2nd or 3rd track. It may be a recording for a specific audience, but “Awaken to the Suffering” does progress a staling genre in a pleasing direction.
-Chaz 10/10/2011 4:15pm