My following of deathcore has certainly dissipated since I was in middle school. I’m appreciative of the bands that I did get into, because they helped me get into more aggressive music to start with. But, over the last few years, the genre has become very saturated with nondescript bands struggling for the spotlight (to me personally, that is). All that being said, I was intrigued to check out the new three-way split between deathcore heavyweights Thy Art Is Murder (Blacktown, Australia), The Acacia Strain (Chicopee, Massachusetts), and Fit For An Autopsy (Jersey City, New Jersey).
The six-track EP was engineered entirely by Fit For An Autopsy guitarist Will Putney, who invited all three bands to his studio in Jersey City. Each band contributed one original song to the first half of the release, and one cover to the second. The record begins with the Thy Art Is Murder track ‘They Will Know Another.’ The first noticeable thing about this track is that it’s extremely heavy in ways that aren’t necessarily traditional in modern deathcore. The guitar playing has a lot of black metal and doom metal influence, relying less on the constant chugging that the genre usually is noted for, and more on atmospheric leads and melodic riffs. This release marks the final recording of former vocalist CJ McMahon before he announced his departure shortly after this recording session took place. McMahon’s vocals are large, aggressive, and fit in perfectly with the tone of the track. As someone who was unfamiliar with the band before hearing this song, I’ll be interested to see where the band goes next, especially with a quest to search for a replacement vocalist.
Second on the tracklisting is The Acacia Strain, the only band on this split that I had previously heard, and am an active fan of. ‘Sensory Deprivation’ falls snugly into the band’s catalogue, showcasing grooving riffs and thick vocals that the band strengthened on their previous LP, 2014’s Coma Witch. It’s not one of their most standout songs, but it does not disrupt the hematic flow of the EP. The track’s highlight is certainly the chanted gang vocals that appear on the choruses and the outro, but they may stick out to me particularly because it seems like they’re mixed just a bit higher than the instrumental section, which is one issue that this half of the EP suffers from. Despite the individual treatments of the vocals and the instrumentals being done well, the combination of the two seems a bit unbalanced overall.
Closing out the originals side is Fit For An Autopsy with ‘Flatlining.’ The track begins with a chaotic riff and chanted vocals, before going into the main part of the song. What makes Fit For An Autopsy stand out on this record is their incorporation of clean vocals, which is a heated debate topic among metal fans, so far as whether or not they should be present. To me, it completely depends on the band, and I think Fit For An Autopsy use them in a way that isn’t as corny or played out as some of their counterparts. Because of this element, the song is the most melodic out of the three. and acts as a good closer for the “original” side of the record.
The EP’s latter half features each band trying their hand at a cover song, all from the same scene and era of music. Thy Art Is Murder takes on the Rammstein hit ‘Du Hast,’ and if you weren’t intimidated by Till Lindeman’s vocals on the original, the band makes sure that you are on their version. To me, a perfect cover is when a band stays true to the spirit of the original, while adding their own spin to it in the process. While there is certainly elements of Thy Art Is Murder’s style on this cover, the charm of the original is somewhat lost with the absence of the keyboards, melodic vocals, and the addition of the breakdown that appears at the end. I applaud the Australian band for making an attempt at the German industrial classic, however I think it would have benefit from some more traditional composition.
The Acacia Strain takes on Soundgarden’s ‘Black Hole Sun,’ and it is by far my favorite cover out of the three. Vocalist Vincent Bennett stated in the accompanying documentary (found on Nuclear Blast Records’ YouTube channel) that ‘Black Hole Sun’ shares elements of doom metal, which the band plays off of very nicely in their version. It’s also one of the only times (if not the only time) that I’ve heard the band incorporate clean vocals into their music, and it really makes the whole rendition closer to the parameters I stated earlier. It’s ridiculously heavy, while still celebrating the melodies of the original composition.
The Depression Sessions concludes with Fit For An Autopsy’s take on Nine Inch Nails’ ‘The Perfect Drug,’ which originally appeared on the Lost Highway soundtrack. This song was hard for me to listen to objectively, mainly because Nine Inch Nails are one of my all-time favorite bands. Unfortunately, the band did not handle this cover quite as well as their split-mates. If you were not familiar with the original song, the verses just sound like a Fit For An Autopsy song, with no real resemblance to the Nine Inch Nails original other than the lyrics. The choruses, however, are exactly how I wish they would have handled the rest of the song. Joe Badolato’s clean vocals come in sharp and direct here, as well as on the outro. I would have been all for just a heavier take on the song, akin to how Portland, Oregan progressive sludge metallers Sioux took on the Nine Inch Nails classic ‘Closer,’ but that doesn’t necessarily mean I wouldn’t want to hear Fit For An Autopsy experiment with covers in the future.
Overall, The Depression Sessions is a fairly consistent release, showcasing three significant deathcore bands from all angles. Though I wasn’t in love with everything introduced on the release, and am still not a super committed deathcore fan in general, I thought the idea that the bands had going into this project was neat, and I’ll be looking out for future releases by everyone involved.
Written by L. Mounts