Smile Empty Souls asserts itself as the perfect soundtrack to an evening spent arguing on anime forums and ordering goregrind cassettes.

Release date: January 6, 2024 | Independent | Instagram | Facebook | Bandcamp

Yanderecahinsawregurgitationfactory (which I will be referring to as Ycrf for the rest of this review for the sake of simplicity) is the solo project brainchild of Andrew. I first stumbled upon Ycrf last year when “Heavier than your manga collection” popped up in my algorithm on Spotify. I was instantly captured by the ridiculous anime intro, followed by some horrifically gurgled slam and death metal. The project it came from, Absence of Normalcy, proved to be one of my favorite things I stumbled upon last year. I loved the horrifically savage riffs and pummeling percussion it put forth, and found myself lost in its dirty raw veneer.

That record kicks down the door and demands absolutely nothing less than your complete attention. It is music that cannot be ignored or pushed to the side. So when I saw that Ycrf dropped a new EP to start the year off I immediately knew I had to draw some attention to it and give Andrew some love. Clocking in at a quick and dirty twenty three minutes, Smile Empty Souls trades out a small bit of the carnality of previous Ycrf releases and offers something with more texture and dynamics than before.

The EP starts off with the track “Yield Your Frozen Body” opening with some noisy ambient textures underscoring the screams of an anime waifu and the whir of a blood-caked chainsaw, before launching into a familiar deluge of blast beats and guitars. These elements come together into a cacophonous flurry of sound, one that does not let up for the entire length of the opening track. Percussion speeds by at a breakneck pace, rapidly changing from blast beats to slower more deliberate rhythms, all the time being chunked and slathered with horrendous vocals and buzzing guitar. The first three tracks are a complete and utter beatdown of sound, with “Smile Empty Souls” and “When Pain Leads the Way” offer up similarly grotesque soundtracks of obscenity.

Throughout this first leg of the EP you can hear the voice of Chainsawchan, the blood thirsty chainsaw wielding OC mascot of Yrcf, screaming venom out at her presumed enemies, seemingly right before grinding them into a fine paste at her feet. The whole time I listen to this material my head is banging and my face is gnarled up, and that is possibly the highest praise I can give it. While being a bit more clean and produced than previous releases, it still retains its teeth. Bile and blood isn’t all this record brings to the table though. Smile Empty Souls is certainly a coin of two opposing sides, with the second half offering as much in serenity and atmosphere as the first did in extremity.

The final two tracks on this EP take things in a much different direction. We heard hints of this different sound at the beginning of “Yield Your Frozen Body” and “When Pain leads the Way.” These spacy ambient intros provide a window into the sort of sound Ycrf would cultivate on the final leg of this EP. If the first half of this EP was a blood spattered floor in the middle of a dilapidated gas station bathroom, the second half is the soft and quiet funeral procession walking by as the disfigured remains are pitched into the ground.

“Walls Keep s h i f t i n g” is my favorite of these two pieces. A humming synth tone buzzes underneath the other elements of the track, subtly shifting in tone and pitch but never rising above a low buzz. This base gives the track a very eerie feeling, almost as if you are falling toward an infinite abyss from which you may never ascend. On top of this synth we are treated to some dusty horn sounds and some very quiet samples of someone speaking. The dark tone of this track allows you to lend your own ominous interpretation to the rambling without ever being able to truly make out what is being said. It may seem like a weird parallel given the ferocity that preceded this track, but I find myself reminded of specific moments in the Godspeed You! Black Emperor catalog. Regardless of what it does or doesn’t remind you of, these tracks add some needed texture and variance to Smile Empty Souls.

Ycrf has delivered something unique with this EP. It manages to take you on a long ride from one end of a sonic extreme to another, blending it all together into a remarkably cohesive listen. It doesn’t have the same level of bloodthirsty rage as previous releases, but it ventures into some sounds that are not all that common within these spaces. I for one would be very happy to see these fusions of unbearably heavy and unnervingly quiet music going forward from Ycrf. Regardless of whether Andrew decides to return to his wicked roots, or floats further into the ocean of ambience before him, I think it would prove to be compelling and invigorating.

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