Originally written by Ian Duncan-Brown.
I’ve found that one of the most difficult aspects of doing album reviews is dissecting releases that I really enjoy in search of errors. Lately, I’ve had to divvy up my metal-listening time between being a reviewer and being a fan. The first time I listened to the latest Despised Icon disc, The Healing Process, I felt layer upon layer of intensity wash over me, and found myself raving about the band on the various metal discussion forums I frequent. However, from then on, I was forced to perform the unpleasant task of listening for flaws. Being objective is a bit tough considering my overwhelmingly positive reaction to The Healing Process, but I have picked out a few things which keep the band’s latest effort from getting full marks. If all of this bores you, the reader, then rest assured that The Healing Process is an exquisite slab of brutality and technical skill. I haven’t unearthed any significant structural defects or niggling flaws. My only concern is that the band’s slightly repetitive style may decrease the lasting impact of their most recent effort.
I have a great deal of difficulty thinking of anything that could be improved as far as musicianship goes. This Canadian crew’s self described “death metalcore” sound would not be possible without utterly impeccable playing from everyone involved, and the performers aim to impress. The guitarists chug, blast, squeal, and shred their way through the nine tracks on The Healing Process, sometimes kicking out thick, meaty breakdowns, sometimes unleashing streams of twisting, technical riffage. Meanwhile, the drums keep up an alarmingly fast tempo, and the bass player does a good job of holding down the low end and adding thickness to the overall sound. As far as the vocals go, the band has created yet another hybrid of core and death metal by employing the efforts of two frontmen, which would explain the unusual range of the vocals coming from Despised Icon. One of these fine Canucks provides a typical hardcore shout, while the other issues forth low-pitched yowls and guttural grunts. Some people who I have talked to feel that the death metal vocals ruin the music, which I find rather distressing considering that this style of vocalization is obviously one of the high (or perhaps I should say “low”) points of the group’s aural assault.
Naturally, The Healing Process is riddled with pinch harmonics and hair-raising squeals, a good example of the influence that the band draws from the metalcore genre. Some sections of this album are even reminiscent of modern hardcore such as Terror, but Despised Icon avoid the boring simplicity that the aforementioned bands often fall into. This album might hold some appeal for hardcore kids, but it is more likely targeted at fans of the Willowtip-style tech grind artists. The most obvious comparison here is with Commit Suicide, but I also see the influence of Converge and Dying Fetus on this recording. Alas, there is a weakness – the songs tend to sound too similar, and there is little which makes each individual track sound unique. I don’t mind this, and in all honesty, I feel that it is a no less effective approach to string a series of riffs together than to construct pieces which are more identifiable as songs. Nevertheless, I am told that a lack of variation or distinct songs is quite off-putting for many listeners, which is the reason I draw attention to it. As far as the mix goes, the production on The Healing Process is more than adequate, keeping one instrument from burying the others.
On the whole, I feel that Despised Icon’s latest is a perfect example of the new wave of metal which tends to resist categorization and draws influence from a variety of different genres. If you’re already a fan of this sort of release, The Healing Process should be more or less the perfect album, and it’s also a great starting point for metalheads less familiar with this type of thing. It’s far from being bereft of good songwriting, and succeeds on all fronts. Highly recommended.