By The Defiled
'1888' is five tracks of hardcore-influenced metal. It's a fair assumption that this is what Bullet For My Valentine would have sounded like if, following 'The Poison,' they had explored the nastier, darker side of their sound, rather than written songs like 'Hearts Burst Into Fire.' The only thing separating The Defiled from an angrier BFMV, is their dabblings in electro and gothic synths, which jars against the straight-faced heaviness of their music.
EP-opener 'The Resurrectionists' is a prime example of this, with its Victorian-themed intro of church bells, horses' hooves and a knife being drawn, culminating in a horror movie climax of slashing sound effects, blood-splatters and screaming. It may play into the CD's accompanying Jack The Ripper artwork, but The Defiled are likely to turn off the hardcore/metal crowd with this very Marilyn Manson-esque introduction.
The verses meanwhile, are anything but cheesy, with their skin-flaying combination of gnashing vocals and blastbeat drumming, while the choruses temper this spiky hardcore aggression with clean vocals. The Defiled somehow find enough room to crowbar in some black-hearted, instrumental metalcore passages that put the final twist on this perfect balancing act between heaviness and accessibility.
The only negative, are the synth flourishes that are a desperate attempt to carry the introduction's atmosphere into the main body of the song. The eerie sound effects sit awkwardly on top of 'The Resurrectionists' utterly-serious snarl, and there's a real danger of them cheapening what's otherwise a credible piece of hardcore-influenced metal.
This is also the case with the heavier 'The End of Innocence,' which bursts from the pre-fabricated atmospherics of the introduction, all snarling riffs, spasmodic drum-rolls and slyly-sinister clean vocals trading off deathcore howls. 'The End of Innocence' then settles into a steady, metallic pound, overlaid with more of those perfectly balanced clean and screamed vocals. Even better, the chorus is another shot of snappy, hook-packed metalcore ala Bullet For My Valentine. However, not content with indulging in a synth-packed introduction, The Defiled splatter those snarling riffs with the occasional, tackily piping synth, which is in danger of taking some of the edge off their aggression.
Title track '1888' is a mixed bag, with an ingeniously addictive chorus and underwhelming verses of sawing guitars, hardcore vocals and spasms of blastbeat drumming. It's furious, but hook-free. It's worth sitting through though, just for that chorus.
While a handful of clean vocals are in evidence, the major hook is in the music, as the guitars frequently burst out of their chuggy rhythms, to deliver a wickedly sharp screech that'll have you hooked. The Defiled finish matters off with a scattering of industrial-metal sound effects that emphasise those steady, chuggy guitars, and make it all the more attention-grabbing when the guitars break loose and go for that piercing high note.
If the verses had half the addictive heaviness of the chorus, then '1888' would be this EP's strongest offering.
Another song, another eerie-synths-and-whispered-vocals introduction. The first twenty seconds of 'Permanent Reminder' would work brilliantly if they were tacked onto a symphonic goth metal song. But, when The Defiled leap straight from that shiver-inducing opening, to a full-on metalcore clatter, it's jarring.
The verses offer up this EP's most brutal moment, pounding along to a brain-deadening beat, and bristling with demonic howls and throat-shredding screeching. The chorus does cast a ray of light into 'Permanent Reminder's vengeful darkness, with a handful of clean vocals. Beyond that though, 'Permanent Reminder' is intense, bloodthirsty metal.
EP-closer 'Red Tape' is a final chance to catch some posturing sound effects, before The Defiled plough headfirst into a riot of spiky snarls and deathcore howls, both racing to keep up with those wrist-shattering drumbeats. The chorus once again delivers a clean vocal thrust that means that, like Bullet For My Valentine, The Defiled will lure in those who wouldn't normally listen to anything this heavy.
The last few minutes sees 'Red Tape' wander into a piano-studded breakdown that dissolves into a fug of horror movie sound effects. It's a neater electro-metal fusion than the tacked-on cheese of those introductions. However, the fact remains that The Defiled are a genuinely heavy hardcore/metal mash-up who, for some reason, want to discredit themselves with sound effects that are one step removed from creaking doors and ghoulish "mwhahahaha" laughter.
'1888' is five great, heavy yet accessible tracks. It'll appeal to Bullet For My Valentine's fanbase with clean vocals squeezed in between those two-tonne riffs; but it just might also end up as a guilty pleasure for fans of the more extreme hardcore and metal scenes. However, if The Defiled want to be taken seriously by the latter, they probably ought to think about dropping the sound effects, because no self-respecting Gallows or The Ghost of a Thousand fan wants to hear horses neighing at the start of a track.