‘Avant-garde’ doesn’t really seem like a good enough descriptor of the new surge of metal cropping up in the underground. Somewhere in between sludge/black/death/doom, a new mutation of heavy music has grown into its own. PORTAL and Ulcerate come to mind first; however, Defacement delivers a promising effort with their sophomore album that should earn them many nods of acceptance in the same circle.
Packed concisely into 37 uncompromising minutes, this thing can seem daunting upon a quick glance of track listings (almost no track is below 5 minutes) and being familiar at all with Defacement’s previous effort Deviant, but this unit pulls it off with impressive compositional prowess.
3 seconds into “Shattered”, and I was worried that the remaining 9 minutes and 26 seconds would fail as tiresome. However, the track shifts from dark and brutal pummeling to doomful wallowing like a heavy storm weakening for a few seconds as everything slows down before the second act. Everything comes together nicely, and the delivered product dazzles in its overall destroy-at-all-costs gravitational pull. “Disenchanted” reflects a similar structure in its meandering halfway through into a mid-tempo doomy intermission before weaving back into the familiar bleak nature, but never feels stale.
The decisions being made in the twists and turns of each track left me aghast with a half smirk as I cherished the constant blunt force trauma assaulting my eardrums. At surface level it may seem formulaic, but the shifts in texture and tone are well-executed, and the flow of the entirety of Defacement mutates nicely. I have no clue what inspiration this album could possibly be derived from, but the steady tempo shifts and breaks in which the more nuanced elements bubble up carry a feeling comparable to esoteric knowledge festering within one’s psyche as some horrific conclusion comes into focus.
The instrumentals interwoven throughout the 8 tracks introduce a sense of the macabre that the brutality of the rest of the album is devoid of. “Limbo I,II,III, & IV” operate in glints of dark/dungeon synth-driven breathers in between the pummeling that follows, which gives the entire album a decent ebb and flow that provides a holistic listening experience. All of this ties together nicely on the closing track.
The shorter tracks (less than 9 minutes in length) still employ the shapeshifting tonality of the longer ones, neatly defining the dynamic range these folks are capable of. “Disavowed’ has an almost bleak whimsical start, then devolves into a destructive conclusion that employs singer Ahmed growling like he’s lost his fucking mind. “Wounded” closes out the album by bringing the sounds of “Limbo” into the fold for its slower parts as previously mentioned, and then finishes with a refreshing obliteration that left me clamoring for a re-listen.
I wasn’t familiar with Defacement at all, but finding out they’re merely a 3-piece band impressed me even further, given how much of an absolute tight unit they sound. These folks work really well together, utilizing their dynamics in composition to devour your attention tenfold.
If you haven’t figured out by now, I fucking love this thing. Metal as a genre thrives off an inherent rehash of themes, aesthetics, and sounds that can leave most of its adherents dolling out bland or uninspired releases sacrificing innovation for prolificity. The outliers of the extreme metal world are mostly where I invest my time, and this album is a testament to why that choice remains fruitful. Defacement have a new fan of theirs, and as long as they keep doing shit like this that’ll never change. In summation: this thing is so goddamn bleak, abhorrent, and packed full of misery that I can’t stop fucking listening to it.