The year: 2015. The place: Johannesburg. Having jostled myself into a great position near the stage to catch Fleshgod Apocalypse at the Witchfest festival, I had no urge to lose this position before watching Septicflesh. The catch was that I had an unknown entity - the American deathcore outfit, Carnifex - to deal with first. Being an utter elitist, I sighed long-suffering sighs and braced myself for what I was sure would be a tedious hour of chugging eight-string guitars, pig squeals and breakdowns upon breakdowns. Thankfully, I was mistaken.
Admittedly, Carnifex does employ some of the aforementioned tropes better associated with boardshorts, stretched earlobes and Vans sneakers, but their melodic flourishes, twinned guitar harmonies and the riveting presence of frontman Scott Ian Lewis, coupled with themes that definitely ally with the darker spectrum of human emotions, made for a life-changing experience. And, while it hasn’t made me explore the world of ‘core much further than the occasional single from Lorna Shore or Vulvodynia, it has afforded me a greater appreciation for the undeniable musicianship, impassioned delivery and acidic content of Carnifex.
The band’s last release, the Bury Me In Blasphemy EP, further intrigued me as it delved even deeper into the blackened (and industrial!) side of things: visually and musically, as the video for the title track amply demonstrates.
The avalanhce of metal has begun and will “Bury Me In Blasphemy.”
While blackcore may not be a thing, Carnifex definitely hinted at the potential of the genre’s existence. A mere glance at the tracklisting - “Hail Hellfire,” “Brushed By the Wings of Demons,” “By Shadows Thine Held” - confirms this supposition. And the latest album, World War X (listen/download here or grab physical product here), may have strayed from this path back to a more deathcore oriented sound, the band still push the envelope - most notably in the inclusion of a guest vocal performance (and music video appearance) from Nuclear Blast labelmates Arch Enemy frontwoman, Alissa White Gluz on the first single, “No Light Shall Save Us.”
Although her contribution hearkens more to her Kamelot days than her current duties, the feminine touch is an effective foil to Lewis’ extensive range: from gutturals to screeches and everything in between, this is a frontman that carries the duties of at least three vocalists in one. The album’s titular track, also with video accompaniment, is something of a trip down memory lane, evoking the sound of the 2014 Die Without Hope album - and thereby setting the tone for World War X as a whole. While the 2016 Slow Death album and the follow-up 2018 Bury Me In Blasphemy EP hinted at a far darker, more introverted message, Carnifex chose to vent their venom on a wider target on this record. In itself, this is not a bad thing from both a marketing and a personal perspective: expressing negativity rather than bottling it up is undeniably cathartic and, as the old adage goes, misery does indeed love company, so a larger audience for World War X is a likely consequence.
The “No Light Shall Save Us” video is a sensory delight, satisfying both auditory and visual acuity with its wide range of sounds and stunning cinematography:
Other highlights include “This Infernal Darkness” with its very mechanised, industrial-esque tonality as well as “All Roads Lead to Hell;” this latter presents a very well-rounded offering, even from a deathcore point of view. The percussion reaches far beyond mere blasting, the guitars are a more varied offering - partially thanks to a guest appearance by the exceptionally talented Angel Vivaldi - and the ever-present bass, while still featured massively in the final mix, is less a kick in the guts than just a solid, no-nonsense foundation.
Overall, World War X is a throwback to what Carnifex do best; while I may personally have hoped for an even darker offering, the sheer crushing weight of the album’s presence and made-for-moshing rhythms guarantee its success.
World War X Track Listing:
01. World war X
02. Visions of the End
03. This Infernal darkness
04. Eyes of the Executioner
05. No Light Shall Save Us
06. All Roads Lead to Hell
07. Brushed By The Wings of Demons
08. Hail Hellfire
09. By Shadows Thine Held
Run Time: 35:04 Release Date: August 2, 2019 Record Label: Nuclear Blast
Lewis’ first outing as a director, on top of his vocal duties, is undeniably a good effort: