Dying Wish infuses extreme metal with hardcore punk attitude on their sophomore offering, showing that the struggle for survival is more than just the sum of its symptoms.

Release date: November 3, 2023 | SharpTone Records | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Bandcamp

Metalcore for all of its catchy non-stop aggression is occasionally prone to repetitiveness, the pitfall of heaviness for heaviness sake, and machismo to the point of sometimes being labeled bro metal or party metal. At the same time there’s been a recent surge of alternative, weird, and happy hardcore. Bands like Buggin, Gel, Jivebomb, Scowl, Spaced, and Zulu are bringing some much needed diversity, inclusion, and experimentation to the scene. Enter Dying Wish from Portland, Oregon the metalcore band with a hardcore soul.

After an incredibly strong debut with 2021’s Fragments of a Bitter Memory Dying Wish are back with their follow up Symptoms of Survival. The new album proves the band still has plenty of gas left in the tank, room to explore, and continue to push genre boundaries. One look at the fantastic album cover by Paul Romano gives a pretty clear look at what we’re in for with this album. Out of pain there can be beauty, with suffering comes growth.

Sonically Dying Wish embodies all of the classic metalcore elements. Chugging guitar, punishing drum beats, and brutal breakdowns with spine tingling growls, infectious verses, and shout along choruses. The intro riffs on “Kiss of Judas” and “Tongues of Lead” recall that early 2000’s sound and would be right at home on a Killswitch Engage or As I Lay Dying jam. All of the expected groovy headbanging heaviness is here in full force. But at their core something greater shines through. Artistic intensity combined with emotional honesty through energetic vocal deliveries of deeply personal lyrics with biting social commentary set to a soundtrack for the end times. Shining a spotlight on the intersection of personal trauma and societal breakdown is where Dying Wish excels.

All of this passion and energy is bringing something else back to metalcore: fun. And joy. When she’s not screaming her head off vocalist Emma Boster is all smiles and laughter as she playfully sticks her tongue out at the crowd. She’s clearly having the time of her life and the audience is too . Slam dancing, mosh pits, and seas of stage diving crowd surfers abound. The devout rush the mic to scream along in a chaotic frenzy, a hardcore staple. Attending a Dying Wish show is not a passive act, it’s a participation.

Emma Boster’s vocals on this record are just insane. Highs, lows, screams, gutturals, heartfelt singing, and everything in between. She runs the gamut with unparalleled proficiency and makes switching from angelic cleans to demonic growls sound effortless. Backing vocals from guitarists Pedro Carrillo and Sam Reynolds add extra punches in all the right places. The dynamics between all these vocal gymnastics, dual clean/harsh vocals, group vocals, and ethereal solo sections are both effective and refreshing.

Right out of the gates title track “Symptoms of Survival” sets the tone lyrically with a poignant critique of war, its inherent pointlessness and brutality. ‘Fight to the death, Without a victor. They order me to shed my humanity as I grip the cold steel. They move with wicked intention, To pollute our minds.‘ Zooming in from social commentary to the deeply personal on “Torn From Your Silhouette” Emma bemoans ‘In selfish fashion, you bleed me dry. How pathetic it feels to have let you inside. Say goodbye, watch me fall. But I’d rather feel everything than nothing at all.‘ The cutting edge of these words from the heart doubled by their elegant delivery is a knife deftly wielded. The album is also peppered throughout with a few brief sound bites: ‘Men’s souls will be shaken with the violence of war.‘ ‘It’s not a question of politics, but one’s own survival.‘ which serve as a complement to the overall thematic resonance of the record and add further depth.

“Path to Your Grave” contains a cheeky call back to the title track from their debut record ‘Words I’ve screamed a thousand times, At the top of my lungs, I would bury you if I could.Fragments of a Bitter Memory closed with the line ‘I would bury you if I could!‘ repeated over and over with ever increasing fury. No doubt these words have literally been screamed a thousand times by Emma and crowds alike at show after show. Even the guitar section that follows later in the song echoes back to Fragments. These types of slowdowns and switch ups with moments of self reference are one of many examples of what sets Dying Wish apart and speaks to the strong relationship developed with their rapidly growing fan base.

Near the middle of the record “Paved in Sorrow” slows things down and serves as a point of no return. The mostly clean vocals channel Spirtbox’s breakout masterpiece Eternal Blue. Being this vulnerable, especially for a metal band, takes courage and self awareness. “Paved in Sorrow” lays everything bare, then builds and builds to an almost rock opera grand ballad finish. Following up the mellowest track with one of the heaviest was a bold move and as a credit to the band it paid off in a big way. The transition into “Tongues of Lead” is simply flawless. Buckle up because from here on out this roller coaster ride has gone right off the rails, the back half of this record is non-stop bangers.

Symptoms of Survival is a brilliant statement on struggle. From individual suffering to worldwide conflict their focus pivots from introspective to macroscopic but never loses its cutting edge. Throughout the album Dying Wish catalog the symptoms of an ongoing struggle to survive like scars accumulating. Those marks on the skin show us where we’ve been, what we’ve overcome to still be here, and point towards what’s coming next. As we continue to ride the wave of revival metalcore Dying Wish have earned a spot right at the front.

Cover art by Paul Romano
Artist photo by Dying Wish

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