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The Price of Existence

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  • So many bands have written so many albums by using more-or-less one very simple songwriting rule: mix together hardcore and heavy metal as frequently as possible. Bands as old as Napalm Death, Meshuggah, Pantera, Hatebreed, and Dying Fetus were among the first to augment death or thrash metal with various elements borrowed from the hardcore world (breakdowns, for example). And through the years, the bands just kept forming, and thus the hardcore-vibe has stayed alive long enough to go through a huge popularity explosion at the turn of the new millennium – innumerable “metalcore” and “metallic hardcore” bands exploded from the music scene around 2000 (thus making hardcore breakdowns as plentiful in music as stars in the sky). But if you sit down and think for a minute, you should eventually realize there are two types of bands that do breakdowns: 1) those like First Blood and As I Lay Dying, who do them because it’s the cool thing to do right now; and 2) bands like All Shall Perish, who do not sound like a generic Johnny-come-lately, but instead sound natural and very comfortable with both hardcore and heavy metal. It sounds like the members of the Bay Area quintet All Shall Perish are first-and-foremost death metalheads, but they also have quite a bit of grindcore (Carcass, Napalm Death, etc.) and Slayer-type thrash coursing through their veins, and they just now happen to be listening to a bit of hardcore (Hatebreed, Terror, etc.), too. This means ASP’s second full-length, “The Price Of Existence,” keeps the hardcore traits (gang shouts, punishing Hatebreed-esque breakdowns, etc.) to a minimum, thus making them more effective when they are used.

    Truthfully, “The Price Of Existence” manages to be even buffer, beefier, busier, and more muscular, energetic, and brutal than the band’s debut, “Hate, Malice, Revenge” (which was released in 2003 and re-released in 2005). A crystal-clear production job capitalizes on the disc’s scalding energy, genuine urgency, gritty rawness, visceral anger, and great musicianship. The musical arrangements are extremely potent, tight, technical, steadfast, and carefully-constructed: Tons and tons of abrasive, grinding, cavity-shaking riffs, guitar leads that might singe your ear hair, quick, slamming drums, and tortured, demonic vocals (check out the almost deafening shrieks!) are incessantly heaped atop thick bass lines and dark, hefty, booming rhythms. It’s a lethal concoction, and boy does it rock hard and with lots of fire. All Shall Perish officially rank right-alongside almost any other death metal band relevant today, including the likes of Skinless, Black Dahlia Murder, and Misery Index.

    Although it may not exactly reinvent the deathcore genre, “TPoE” is an uncompromisingly harsh, powerfully bludgeoning, ferociously blistering take-no-prisoners assault which never friggin’ lets up, save for a brief acoustic instrumental interlude called “Greyson,” and a piano intro on the set closer, “The Last Relapse.” Plus, the songs’ constant, inescapable energy and nifty hooks help to make almost the whole album interesting and memorable. “Eradication” opens the disc up with a smoke-inducing jackhammer rhythm, frothing six-string interplay, smashing blasts, and a slow tempo change which helps build the tension nicely. Later, “Wage Slaves” and “We Hold These Truths…” back fiery, crunching riffs with walloping skins; sharp, punching riffs and exceptional bass work shred through the listener’s speakers on “There Is No Business To Be Done On A Dead Planet;” “Better Living Through Catastrophe” features a great slow-to-fast build-up, thunderous, machine gun power chords, and an At The Gates-style blast beat; “Prisoner Of War” is an almost blinding number with a lengthy, careening solo, scorching riffs and rapid-fire drums that hit you over the head like falling cement blocks; “The True Beast” utilizes huge, flattening power chords to evoke the sound of steel doors being rapidly slammed shut; and the above-mentioned “The Last Relapse” is highlighted by busy, frothing, dogfighting riffs, a thumping beat, and a whiplash speed shift that will likely strain your neck muscles.

    If anything drags “The Price Of Existence” down, it’s that a generic, uneventful, less-than-exciting-or-amazing part will occasionally crop up, thus stalling the record’s momentum and come across sounding a lot like filler (for example, track ten, the completely forgettable “Promises,” kind of sags and probably should have been scrapped from the record entirely.) Plus, upon close inspection, it’s clear that some of the riffs (particularly the slower, earth-shaking type) are recycled more than a few times over the course of these eleven tracks. But ultimately, any extreme music fan will find those two flaws very minute and almost irrelevant when he or she considers how much skull-crushing force, face-melting intensity, and massive devastation this mercilessly b-b-b-brutal monster holds.

    Posted on November 15, 2009