• Sammy O'Hagar

Despised_Icon_-_Day_Of_MourningWhile Despised Icon didn’t show up early to the deathcore party, they did manage to show up right on time with 2005’s laudably solid The Healing Process. Squarely at the intersection of technical death metal and tough guy hardcore, the band provided a then-fresh perspective on both genres with remarkable precision. Fast forward to 2009: deathcore is (relatively) big business now, and has, in its short existence, become a polarizing and ultimately tired genre. Any kid that grew up listening to breakdown-fueled hardcore can throw on a Suffocation shirt, meet a few other dudes that spend 8-12 hours a day practicing guitar, find a drummer one can trigger out of existence, and – BOOM! – you’ve got an honest shot at being signed to Sumerian or Victory. And yet, The Healing Process retains its fresh sound. This is, perhaps, the greatest disappointment in terms of Despised Icon’s latest outing, Day of Mourning: while there are certainly salvageable bits, it veers close to sounding like tired, triggered deathcore overall. Trying to keep up with the times has ultimately made the band a victim of them, and in a genre as massively overpopulated and interchangeable as deathcore, it’s an unwise decision to sound like anyone else.

The good news about the album is that there are tons of great Meshuggah-meets-morse-code breakdowns and hardcore-informed slams. In fact, there’s nary a bad one on the whole thing. The opening of “All for Nothing” is reminiscent of Bury Your Dead before they started taking themselves seriously; the epic trod and ominous arpeggio of “Entre le Bien et le Mal” (which, if high school French still serves me well, is some sort of reference to zombies) has a meanness that would make Winds of Plague hang their oft-pierced heads in shame; and “MVP”’s mosh parts alternate between Coalesce techniess, rapid fire palm-muted picking, and a good, old fashioned slow motion car crash metalcore breakdown. Even the drums, while a little too sterilized (as this, sadly, is deathcore’s M.O.), still have interesting flourishes and stylistic signs of life to them. There’s plenty of fun to be had on Day of Mourning, and one doesn’t even have to feel guilty while having it: Despised Icon take the mosh arts seriously. While many of deathcore’s lesser acts focus on making skinny kids erupt into scene karate, DI focus on constructing aural violence to enjoy at home as well as in a live setting. Even “Sleepless“ – the semi-provocative closing track that features hints of doom and post-metal – still has teeth to it, proving that the band can feature notable dynamics but still stay on their feet.

Unfortunately, even despite the presence of “Sleepless,” Day of Mourning comes up short in terms of an album. While it’s silly to slam an album of good songs because it doesn’t feel like an album, this is not one of those cases: despite meaty riffs and toothsome breakdowns, something’s missing. Day of Mourning feels more like a string of good parts instead of a collection of good songs. Lack of songwriting chops has always been deathcore’s and metalcore’s Achilles Heel, and Despised Icon come dangerously close to becoming a 2010 Hot Topic discount bin resident at times. The album has the band sounding like a better-than-average deathcore outfit; however, for the guys that made an record as concise, sleek, and affecting as The Healing Process, this isn’t good enough. In a genre where bands have quickly become as disposable as tampons, we have to expect more of the ones that can do more. The Despised Icon of 2005 were solidly of the latter. The 2009 edition makes one not so sure.

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(2 1/2 out of 5 horns)


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