Succumb - XXI

16 Sep 2021 - Thorsten

Experimental Death-Metal | The Flenser | Release date: 24 Sep 2021

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There is nothing wrong with straight, simple and easy-accessible Death Metal. However, when one crosses a variant involving classical Death Metal stereotypes with a bit of a penchant for musical oddities and a vocalist that clearly shows her love for the classical poets of the turn of the last century – then it is time to listen with open, pointy ears! Just as indicated by the female, anthropomorphous female Satan on the cover of Succumb’s sophomore record XXI.

The Bay Area quartet is just another proof for the still utmost importance of the area for modern music because with this release it shows that Death Metal is not only a thundering of hooves over classic heavy metal riffing accompanied by devilish growls and howls. It can be much more – and one possibility is that it incorporates several details that embellish the soundscape and the lyrics.

Let’s be clear – the fact that Succumb has a highly gifted vocalist is one part of that. That this vocalist is a female is not, because it would diminish her to just another mess of “oh that’s a woman growling and screaming? I would never have guessed!” exclamations besetting decades of feminist restructuring of society and its values. To make it clear: Not Cheri being a woman is so impressive but her lyrics and vocals are.

The lyrics of Succumb are really playing with poetic pictures of the early 20th century, with surrealist imagery and phrases, picking up the very often visible preference for nouns and connected images and less use of verb phrases. ”Graal”, for example, uses only five verbs as verbs but a lot of shortly described images, here one part: ”Fire set to the palace of warriors / A divine substance held / in the precious bloody relic“ - no clear thing thrown at us and yet, we have an idea of what she wants to say.

The second thing that sets the band apart is the sound that one might ascribe to The Flenser, whose artists sometimes share a love for lo-fi-productions as a stylistic means. There is a somewhat cloudy sphere over some parts so that not every single details becomes audible at once and one has to work its way through that cloud. That might not be the easiest way of attracting an audience but for said people it is a very rewarding thing, indeed. By the way, this cloud is not the noisy outro to ”Graal” but a general element that one can find in a few The Flenser bands so that Succumb fits the label’s roster nicely, even though their music might not fit at first glance.

Another part of the mystique and attraction of a band like Succumb lies in the drumming and its coherence with the riffs. Most of the time, both elements seem to fight for the attention of the listener, but in nearly every song we hear a moment when this fight leads into a tumble-down, when the hand slides over the guitar and the drums set out for the blink of an eye in order to give space to the work of the six-string. These songwriting skills have been honed by a band now together for near seven years and whose last record, the eponymous debut was released back in 2017 and one cannot but confirm the high praise that was poured out over them four years ago.

This record is not trying to play nice, it is trying to wake you up with manifold blastbeat variations over powerful but hectic riffs, so that you can witness these little details like a second or third guitar line underneath the primal riff (compare the final track and major highlight of the record ”8 Trigrams”). XXI, also recorded by Jack Shirley, is a record of many faces but it doesn’t have one: A boring one. Maybe Succumb just can’t do boring.