The Impaler – AFWTD (A Fate Worse Than Death)
Release Date: 19/02/2021
Running Time: 29:31
Review by Steven Hooke
I’m starting to think the raging sun and the multitude of insects and animals that want to kill them is starting to really get to Australians.
A hive of various iterations of hardcore over the years, the light and frilly post-hardcore of The Amity Affliction and Hands Like Houses slowly evolved into the stomp and aggression of Parkway Drive and I Killed the Prom Queen, which then in turn crept into the realms of deathcore with Thy Art is Murder and Make Them Suffer, before a quick foray into the emergence of djent with Polaris and Northlane, lead to New Zealand’s bigger brother becoming the international hotspot for the new age of nu-metalcore with the likes of Ocean Grove and Alpha Wolf. It’s almost like they were bored of being known as ‘that country with the band that’s played the same song for 50 years and whose guitarist dresses like he’s still in secondary school’.
In that bracket of ‘it’s like deathcore, except it actually sounds like someone wants to kill me’ is The Impaler, a five-piece banquet from Melbourne. Following up from their debut “Death Cult” from last year, “A Fate Worse Than Death” actually opens with a similar idea to the debut, with the intro track – in this case ‘Voices’ – keen to set the mood and the atmosphere for the album. Whereas ‘The Leper’ from “Death Cult” goes from ‘spooky spooks’ to ‘murder’ in about 30 seconds, ‘Voices’ lets the aura build, creating a darker, encroaching presence before getting to the aforementioned ‘murder’ parts. Straight away from the two openers, The Impaler’s ‘AFWTD’ has whiffs that the band has been hard at work to create a bigger feeling to their music, with the switch into ‘Failure’ showing off the wall of noise they now have in their repertoire.
A large part of it comes from an improved production job, adding in the rumbling bass tone that’s all the rage at the moment, which affects the bass drum kicks and general low-end notes. That, in turn, gives you a satisfying little rattle in your head whilst not sounding like a blown speaker. It’s particularly prominent on ‘Mourn’, which features a guest appearance from Thy Art is Murder’s CJ McMahon who trades vocal lines with The Impaler frontman Jordan Scott, ending up sounding like the pair are gargling cement.
The black metal elements are far more pronounced on this album too. Echoing tremolos dominate ‘Release’ before they melt into veering bends that feels like you’re taking a peak outside after the first bomb has been dropped, but no song adds blackened kvlt-ness as prominent – or as good – as ‘Immortal’. An almost beautiful song that feels inspired by the blackened folk qualities of ‘The Wild Hunt’ by Watain and one that is bathed in melodies, with everyone playing their part so well throughout the song. The heaven breaching swells of guitars that seamlessly transition into black metal chord progressions, drummer Jammie Hubbard leading the charge from one key change to another, before working with bassist Ben Van Looy in imploding the world on the breakdown, all the while Jordan is performing with an incredible range that almost poetically feels like a cross between Alpha Wolf’s Lochie Keogh and former Suicide Silence frontman Mitch Lucker.
I feel almost cruel giving this a 7/10, mostly because it doesn’t feel like it tells the full story – although for what it’s worth, it is a high 7. Like a 7.999*/10.
It feels like the best parts of ‘A Fate Worse Than Death’ almost hinder the album, the heights of ‘Immortal’, ‘Mourn’ and ‘Release’ are so high that they leave the rest of the album feeling quite normal (although the “…destroy the fucking world!” breakdown in ‘Hatred’ is pure filth). The world building and sadistic opera-like swells brought in from black metal work wonders for the band’s sound and should, along with this production style, be things The Impaler lean into heavily for album number three, which given their turnaround so far should be here March next year, so chop chop lads.
‘Mourn’ (Official Video)
04. Mourn (ft. CJ McMahon of Thy Art is Murder)
06. Hatred (ft. Josh Hill of Cerement)
Jordan Scott – Vocals
Shaun Van Looy – Lead Guitar
Lewis Ranford – Rhythm Guitar
Ben Van Looy – Bass
Jammie Hubbard – Drums
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