Originally written by Jordan Campbell
In 2012, deathcore is basically dead. For some, this is cause for celebration. Those that bristled at scenester poseurs occupying the opening slots of every other death metal gig can relax a bit. At long last, basketball shorts and slam riffs have gotten the “Sandblasted Skin” treatment.
But, in hindsight, the much-maligned sub-subgenre wasn’t the abominable plague that it was originally perceived to be. Someone had to construct a bridge between the melodeath-aping strain of metalcore and actual death metal, and deathcore provided a navigable path for hordes of young ‘heads searching for visceral legitimacy.
For the actual purveyors of deathcore, however, the path to their own legitimacy has been tough to traverse. Following Job For A Cowboy‘s lead, these bands have started to trim the gimmicky tropes with the hope of morphing into mature DM squads. There are two problems with this:
1) Bands that totally shirk the deathcore conventions are wading into shark-filled waters. There’s a glut of wicked-ass death at our fingertips, from the recently exhumed Exhumed to Willowtip‘s trepanation trifecta of Ulcerate, Gigan, and Desecravity. Real DM fans aren’t going to flock to reformed trend-hoppers if the rallying cry is a merely a muttered, “Hey, man, they’re really not that bad anymore.”
2) If these bands still cling to the thick-skulled brodown conventions of deathcore in the transitional process, they’re just going to have to deal with the fact that Benighted is already way, way fucking better than they are.
And so we arrive at Rose Funeral, who, faced with this scenario, are basically fucked. They aren’t very good at writing songs (the standard formula on Gates of Punishment: Triggered blasty part —-> weedily lead guitar thing —-> bridge —-> 808 drop —-> ultra-telegraphed THIS IS THE HEAVY PART NOW breakdown). Their attempts at melodic experimentation are, despite some noble efforts, consistently marred by leftover deathcore trappings, e.g. refrains of “Kill! Kill! I want to kill!” and a patent rejection of legitimate rhythm guitar riffs.
Gates of Punishment is an absolute mess, an album that comes off less like a labor of love and more like an act of vanity. In an attempt to prove themselves as adults with a vision, they hired an opera singer for a guest spot, but diminished her classiness in favor of their own tackiness. (It sounds like she randomly recorded her parts from her living room, and the band pasted it between some plastic blastbeats and a lackluster breakdown just for the fuck of it.) Elsewhere, synthetic symphonics are tossed about randomly, attempting to perpetuate the illusion of “artistic growth.”
To gain death metal cred, they called Steve Tucker to growl along to “False Divine,” but were too busy turning all knobs to eleven to toss him a spotlight. (If you want to hear Steve Tucker, just buy the damn Nader Sadek album and be done with it.)
The actual meat of the album is simultaneously simplistic and overbearing, with an over-reliance on trendy production techniques—turn everything up!—and ineffective, overactive drumming.
So, can an album like Gates of Punishment be viewed as a microcosm for the decline of deathcore as a whole? Not really. It’s barely consequential on its own merits, and therefore has little relevance as a manufactured metaphor. However, this is definitely a product of a generation that constantly seeks adulation and acceptance, yet can’t decide when and how to actually grow the fuck up. Rose Funeral is fumbling to get into their big-boy pants, but Gates of Punishment is the just sound of foreskin getting caught in the zipper.