Long Island/Queens’ Praeter Morte claim that, unlike far too many bands in the current musical landscape of their hometowns, they “create music that will not cater to the tight pant wearing, comb-over emocore/metalcore/deathcore sub- genres,” while upholding their “uncompromising ever-elusive sound.” On their full-length Last Resort debut Purifying the Oppressor, these death metal newcomers not only hold true to their mission statement, but carve out a niche as one of the area’s definite “must-see and hear” acts in the genre.
The opening guitar strains (reminiscent of At the Gates and “South of Heaven” era Slayer) of “Behold the Void,” the opening track on Purifying the Oppressor, beckon the listener in, inviting him into the imminent brutality. Then before the listener can respond, Praeter Morte swiftly grabs him by the throat and proceeds with the pummeling. Fierce thrash/death riffs are layered over typical death metal vocal barks/shrieks as the song moves into a dance floor-ready breakdown and finally into a memorable outro.
The second track (“I Remain”) is perhaps the most memorable on the album, and truly showcases the band’s diverse influences. The undoubtedly black metal influenced opening riffs that begin the song segue interestingly into a brutal slowdown that is sure to make ‘core kids happy. The tempo speeds back up and suddenly breaks with a haunting acoustic guitar moment before transitioning back into the fast-paced blackened death frenzy (including some double bass drumming), and then again builds into an absolutely vicious beatdown to close (coupled with a guitar solo to keep it fresh).
On the third track “Hunting Humans,” Praeter Morte unfortunately wades into the depths of heavy metal cliché, opening with a sample from Quentin Tarentino’s uberviolent Reservoir Dogs. While a few (key word “FEW”) acts can pull off using movie/television samples to actually heighten their sound (Killwhitneydead comes to mind), it simply doesn’t work here, and just makes the band seem amateurish. Perhaps not coincidently, this track ends up being perhaps the album’s most forgettable, full of generic deathcore pig squeals and uninteresting breakdowns. The song’s lone standout moment is about midway through the song, when the listener is treated to an eerie melodic death interlude, sandwiched between what is an otherwise throwaway track.
Thankfully, Praeter Morte returns to form with the next offering, “The Culling.” Riffs that pay homage to black, death, and perhaps grind roots mix wonderfully into a series of ferocious, slowing breakdowns (unfortunately accompanied by pig squeal vocals) and eventually a terrific solo from guitarist Chris Billera. The tempo changes as well as dynamic drumming make this track interesting and memorable.
The fifth track “S.S.P” is solid hardcore influenced death metal, but other than Billera's quality solo about midway through, doesn’t really break any new ground. However, on the track following “S.S.P,” Praeter Morte gives us perhaps their best musical performance. This track, “Attrition of the Soul,” is an instrumental, and truly a showcase of the top-notch musicianship that exists in the band; it is an expert amalgam of so many of the band’s influences. The band cites extreme acts such as Megadeth, At the Gates, Dark Funeral, Dissection, Emperor, and Pelican as having giving them inspiration, and you can really see the diverse sources of influence here. If Praeter Morte wants to quickly prove that they rise above the generic deathcore crop, they need only to play this song as evidence.
Praeter Morte step up their breakdown-laden death metal on “Scorched Earth Policy,” a straight forward track that would fit nicely on a quality Cannibal Corpse or Dying Fetus album. Another blistering guitar solo helps end the track memorably; “Scorched Earth Policy” should translate well to a mosh pit near you. The 8th track, “To Those Left Behind,” is a melodeath romp, again spiced with diverse breakdowns (not repetitive chugs), technical drumming, and another tight guitar solo. “Under the Searchlight” and “Bodies on Sunrise” (the album closer) follow suit, exhibiting quality musicianship and a wide array of metal styles represented in interesting combinations. The final track utilizes some particularly impressive riffs; both melodic and crushing.
If there is a major weakness in the overall package that is Praeter Morte, it is the vocals. While Chris Carlisle’s barks and squeals are not necessarily poorly executed, they aren’t unique. The band adamantly wants to remove themselves from the cookie-cutter deathcore heap, but the sometimes generic vocals employed on “Purifying the Oppressor” will make quick-judging individuals compare Praeter Morte to bands like Oceano, Suicide Silence, and Whitechapel. While some don’t care about such things on an extreme record, the lyrics on this album could also be improved. The lyrics tend towards metal clichés as well, bouncing between Cannibal Corpse type horror and themes regarding societal ills (war, genocide, corporate corruption), ala early thrash metal. Vocally, Carlisle is actually at his best when he moves away from the death metal realm of growls and grunts and leans more toward his bloodcurdling higher-pitched screams (like those from 3:50-4:06 in "I Remain" and during the last 50 seconds of "S.S.P") Unfortunately, these type of vocals are not utilized on the majority of "Purifying the Oppressor."
Much is made about the hardcore breakdowns that are implemented in so much metal music today. Some will dislike a band like Praeter Morte simply because they have such elements in their music; as one reviewer states, bands like Praeter Morte, “are simply watering down At the Gates and mixing it with Sick of it All and Hatebreed.” While some bands of the recent deathcore trend may be described in such simplistic terms, it is unfair to do so with Praeter Morte. Praeter Morte are unapologetic about their hardcore influence (citing Madball and Blood for Blood as two in particular); they were raised on this type of music (as were so many others from Long Island and NYC), thus they infuse it in to their sound. Praeter Morte also does a fine job of varying the sound of the breakdowns, ensuring that the listener does not grow tired of the same repeated mosh parts. While some will try to unfairly lump this band with the dozens of uninspired deathcore bands that combine death (or melodeth) with hardcore breakdowns, Praeter Morte are a notch above. In what is a mark of a quality band, Praeter Morte cannot be compared fairly to a single act, they don’t sound “just like Whitechapel,” or “like Suicide Silence;” one must begin citing a combination of at least a handful of great extreme acts before they even start to get an idea of the sound that Praeter Morte creates on “Purifying the Oppressor.” If bands Dying Fetus, Aborted, Decapitated and Long Island death metal legends Suffocation can incorporate breakdowns into their death metal and still be widely respected, there is no reason why Praeter Morte can’t do the same.
Praeter Morte’s next show on Long Island is a headlining spot, Saturday February 20th, at Fin’s Pub in Oakdale. Cat-1 Booking is putting together this show, which also includes Suppressed Theory and Black Crown. More information about Praeter Morte (including purchasing their album) is available on their Myspace.
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