Headshrinker ‒ Callous Indifference Review

One of the neatest things in death metal over the last couple years has been the number of bands putting unique spins on old sounds while still firmly remaining within the walls of death metal. Not that there’s anything wrong with extreme experimentation, but doing just enough to stand out is oftentimes a sign that the band tried to play direct homage to their heroes but have too much creativity going on to play it straight. Or at least it seems that way. I don’t really know their intentions. I’m not a mind reader.

Release date: August 27, 2021. Self-released.
Such is the case with Denver’s Headshrinker. If the initial bars of opener “The Burn Of Indifference” were to be believed, debut Callous Indifference would be straight old school Swedeath worship, buzzsaw speed and chewy production and all. But if you make a full impression of a record based on the first 20 seconds, you probably aren’t making the best decisions about your music collection. The song takes very little time introducing several different motifs and tempos, at one point completely dropping out before coming back with more of a trudging heft, and always backing it up with an active, rumbling bass. It’s almost as if the band is going for a touch of theatricality and pomp without having to employ any bells and whistles, and they generally succeed in that regard. (Okay, there’s a touch of piano in the closer, but that’s it.)

Certain songs take this vibe even further. “Lost To This Insomnia” includes some near spoken word passages (with a touch of haunted spokal action) and moodier, almost post metal sections that take it pretty far away from standard death metal. “Cadaver’s Mind,” meanwhile, makes great use of answering hefty pummels with fluttery tremolo hooks (one of the band’s favorite tools), but also has some almost clean vocals at the end that give off an Akercocke vibe in their chant/growl/croon (?) combination. Then there’s the demonic vocals that dominate much of the beginning of “Haunted By Your Reflection,” which just reek of Dramatic Stage Poses.

All of these songs still contain mostly capital-D Death Metal, however, and Headshrinker certainly excels most when putting the hammer to the anvil. The vocals of Young Werther help in this department, largely ranging from deep gutturals to kinda phlegmy screams (when they aren’t doing the aforementioned oddball moments), but most of the time the thunder comes from the riffs, as you’d expect. When “Haunted By Your Reflection” abandons the witchery and kicks into the heft, it does so the type of mid-paced chugs that really get a sweaty pit acting like drunk degenerates. Best of all is “Wretched Soul,” which contains the kind of double-kick-and-speed-pick section that ought to bring a grin to the face of any Morbid Angel fan, but also a smooth, melodic solo for contrast.

Callous Indifference has touches of doom/death, prog, tech, and even post metal, but it is not really any of those things. And while not every moment is a total thriller, there also isn’t a real lean moment, and the best material is pretty damn kickass. Here’s hoping their understanding of several death metal approaches and ‒ most importantly ‒ that big personality lead to even weirder/better moments for Headshrinker in the future. For now, add this to your collection of Just Different Enough Death Metal (copyright pending).

Posted by Zach Duvall

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; Obnoxious overuser of baseball metaphors.

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