Deathcore is very hit or miss for me. On the one hand, it has some of the most talented drummers and vocalists the industry has to offer. Talented musicians who constantly test their limits and break through those invisible barriers with fervor and gusto, thereby setting the new standard until the next guy comes along to blow everyone’s minds all over again. You can’t help but respect it; for better or worse, we would have no sense of progress without these starry-eyed trailblazers.
Then on the other hand, it can also be depressingly formulaic and predictable. Boring, even. Sometimes it feels like every jerkoff with an 8-string is clogging up the scene with the same uninspired recycled djent riffs over and over again. And don’t even get me started on The Allegations.
Thankfully, Death: An Anthology, the newest full length from Spokane, Washington’s Enterprise Earth, is anything but predictable or formulaic. It leans into established tropes at times, sure, but for the most part the song structures are all wildly varied and highly unpredictable, making for an altogether unique experience. There were plenty of parts that I didn’t particularly care for, but the parts that I did enjoy — of which there were also plenty — were so good that I remained firmly on the hook, determined to see things through to the end. And you know what? I’m glad I did.
First and foremost (he said four paragraphs in), the guitarwork on this album is nothing short of dazzling. Gabe Mangold’s chops would make Eddie Van Halen blush, no bullshit. Every single song has at least one great shred section full of dive bombs, sweeps, and immaculate scale work that is fascinating to listen to. Notable examples include “The Reaper’s Servant”, a delightful love letter to all things thrash metal, the spectacularly written tech death opus “Casket of Rust” (see the music video below), and the tremendous instrumental track “Accelerated Demise”, which is just so much fun it ought to be illegal. And then on top of all that, there’s also a guest appearance on “Malevolent Force” by the inimitable Wes Hauch, who as I’ve mentioned before is an animal unto himself. It’s enough to tickle the fancy of anyone who calls themselves a music nerd.
Another thing on Anthology that stands out is the sheer variety of vocal styles in Travis Worland’s arsenal. The man is extremely well rounded and clearly felt like he had something to prove now that he has permanently replaced longtime vocalist Dan Watson, who left the band in the spring of 2022 for, shall we say, complex personal reasons. All power and well wishes to him, but now it’s Travis’s turn at bat, and he has stepped up to the plate big time, delivering a very impressive and dynamic vocal performance.
You’ve got your tunnel throat technique, that weird tongue-heavy goblin noise that Will Ramos has all but trademarked, straightforward hardcore barks, piercing screams, and even a healthy serving of clean singing segments, used to varying degrees of success. For example, I wasn’t a fan of the sappy melodic parts in the penultimate track “Blood and Teeth”, but the final song “Curse of Flesh” is an epic, triumphant anthem that begs to be sung along to with clenched fists held aloft. In fact, Worland’s performance is so diverse that I almost didn’t recognize Trivium’s Matt Heafy lending his instantly recognizable voice for a guest appearance on that same song; I just assumed it was Travis using another different technique at first, but then it finally clicked after a few seconds.
I must admit, I went into Death: An Anthology with decidedly metered expectations. I’m just not that into breakdowns, no matter how much anticipation is built up before them or how the rhythms zig when you’re expecting them to zag. At the end of the day, I just prefer riffs over open string chugging, plain and simple. You’ve got 144 possible notes to play on just an average 24-fret, 6-string guitar, and exponentially more so the more strings and frets you start to add, so motherfucking use them, man.
However, this album genuinely surprised the hell out of me. There are still breakdowns aplenty and a handful of melodic segments that just didn’t resonate with me, but there are also a TON of legitimately badass riffs and solos that more than make up for it. If even a hesitant ex-elitist like me can find it in him to wax poetic about this album, then I expect that the real dyed-in-the-wool fans will be positively frothing at the mouth once they get their hands on it. Go get ’em, tiger.
Enterprise Earth’s Death: An Anthology drops Friday, February 2 via MNRK Heavy. Preorder your copy today.
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