Ik neem aan dat ieder deathmetal-liefhebber in België en Nederlands zijn of haar eigen soort adventskalender aan het afstrepen is naar 3 november a.s. als eindelijk het langverwachte album van Carnation in de winkel ligt, Cursed Mortality.
In aanloop daar naartoe is hier de vijfde - en laatste - single die de mannen de wereld in slingeren als voorbode voor wat komen gaat. En als we de kwaliteit van dit nummer optellen bij hetgeen we al hebben ontvangen de afgelopen maanden, dan kan eigenlijk nu al wel de conclusie worden getrokken dat het een heerlijk kick-ass-album zal gaan zijn.
Met Cycle of Suffering herinneren de mannen ons er weer aan waarom zij vooroplopen in de Belgische stoet van old-school-death-metal-bands. Het nummer begint vet en zwaar en zet meteen de toon voor deze (haast) trip down memory lane. Zonder, in tegenstelling tot eerdere nummers, ook maar een cleane noot te zingen, grunt voorman Simon Duson ons toe. De rest van de band staat hem bij met diepe, harde dubbele bass-actie en gitaargeluid dat kippenvel opwekt.
"Cycle of Suffering is a relentless track that expertly treads the line between commanding lead sections and thunderous rhythmic riffage," says Carnation. "It's an absolute blast to perform, which is why we gave it an energetic music video that focuses on our live performance. Undoubtedly, this track will end up in the set list of many of our future live shows".
For the last decade, CARNATION has been at the forefront of reviving old school death metal. There’s something to be said about the artfulness of taking something so primitive and walking that fine line between keeping its classic authenticity without sounding tired or dated. CARNATION has always teetered this line, injecting a fresh and contemporary approach without losing the genre’s time-honored traditions. However, the band’s third endeavor sees CARNATION erasing those boundaries entirely and abandoning any and all conventions as they traverse into daring new territory. ‘Cursed Mortality’ pulls the Belgian death dealers deeper into experimental new waters, taking risks as the band steps out of the shadows of its predecessors and comes into its own identity. 'Cursed Mortality's' statement is clear: This is no longer simply a revival; this is CARNATION’s rebirth.
“We still play death metal and we still identify as such” explains frontman Simon Duson. “But we know that this is also our second decade performing it. And while it is very important for us to stay true to the old-school style, we know we had to open things up a bit and reach out to those who might be interested in extreme metal, but aren’t that much into the old aspect of it. It also feels fresher to us because we’ve decided to change our visual approach, with a new logo, a new look on stage and so on. In a way, it really feels like the beginning of a new chapter for CARNATION.”
Album number three is much more than just a new chapter, but rather feels like a sequel to an already storied career, punctuated by press accolades, an impressive history of live performances, and a lauded discography consisting of several EPs, splits, and two critically acclaimed full-length albums.
With the debut of its first EP in 2015, CARNATION quickly garnered the attention of fans, media, and most notably of all, record label Season of Mist, who quickly noticed the band’s potential and picked them up without hesitation. Upon forming this union, the band dropped its first full-length, ‘Chapel of Abhorrance,’ in 2018. Angry Metal Guy astutely noted that the Belgians’ debut album was “one of the best death metal debuts of the year, and CARNATION have earned their place as one of the most promising new bands in the genre'' while Distorted Sound Magazine echoed these remarks, calling ‘Chapel of Abborhance’ “one of most brutalizing, well executed and, above all, fun, death metal releases of 2018'' in its 9/10 review of the album.
CARNATION’s momentum only seemed to pick up from there. The band kept busy on the road, performing a variety of tours with their death metal brethren in Deserted Fear, Schirenc Plays, Pungent Stench, and Pestilence, while headlining stages in Japan and Brazil. Upon conquering the live circuit and laying waste to audiences across three different continents, the band unleashed its 2020 opus, ‘Where Death Lies,’ which broke them out from the underground with the kind of seismic force that most bands can only dream of. If the critics liked ‘Chapel of Abhorrance,’ ‘Where Death Lies’ was the moment they fell in love, enamored by Carnation’s relentless brutality and crushing precision.
While touring had been halted that year, CARNATION never stagnated nor waivered. The band’s tenacity paid off with their sophomore effort being named among one of the best records of the year by The Pit, Chicago Music Guide, Pandemonium Metal, and many more, while the single “Iron Discipline'' was singled out by Loudwire as one of the best songs of 2020. Legacy outlet Kerrang! also took notice, ranking the band among the “50 Greatest Death Metal Bands Right Now,” cracking the top 20 picks.
While the Belgian slayers still stay true to their roots, they step outside of their comfort zone with more groove, melody, and progression, showcasing their versatility as musicians and clearly defining their own unique sound. ‘Cursed Mortality’ sounds darker, with passages of melancholic melodies that compliment the heaviness.
Most bands might feel anxious about making such dramatic changes, especially to incorporate clean vocals within such extreme music, CARNATION embraces the unknown and does not fall victim to fear or monotony. “As artists, it's something natural,” explains Verstrepen about why the band has shifted direction. “Doing the same thing over and over again doesn't inspire us. We love to create and we love to explore new paths. We knew some people wouldn't like clean vocals in death metal, but we don't want to think of that too much. We stand 100% behind our music and we really like what we did here. Some people will drop out, but there will definitely be others joining! As Lemmy would say, 'You win some, you lose some.'”
Indeed, a personal metamorphosis is always a risk, but one that historically has paid off. The first records of bands like Black Sabbath, Carcass, Death, or even Bathory sound nothing like the mid-late era offerings of those very same artists, and yet, those records that strayed off the beaten path are regarded as some of the most seminal albums in the history of metal. Playing it safe sounds easy, but it isn’t always a part of a legend’s origin story. And CARNATION isn’t here to play by the rules; the band is ready to take a leap of faith and redefine an era.