Carnifex – Graveside Confessions (Album Review)

Carnifex – Graveside Confessions
Released: September 3, 2021

Line Up:

Scott Ian Lewis // Vocals
Shawn Cameron // Drums
Cory Arford // Guitar
Fred Calderon // Bass

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The OGs of blackened deathcore, San Diego’s Carnifex have been chugging away in the metal underground for over a decade and a half now. While some of their peers strayed from the deathcore path over the years, Carnifex have stood firm in delivering their unique brand brutality. Their eighth full length, Graveside Confessions proves that the group are far from mellowing out or dialling back the intensity, delivering a new album with one eye on the past.

As the global COVID pandemic runs havoc on the entire music industry, Carnifex have taken the opportunity to create their newest music in-house. Drummer and founding member Shawn Cameron recorded and engineered the album, while mixing and mastering was handled by behind the scenes contributor Mick Kenney (of British extremists band Anaal Nathrakh). More power to them as well, with the recording’s being on-par with their other work that was created in bigger studios with high profile producers. A less epic and more direct effort than their previous LP World War X, Graveside Confessions ticks all the boxes for classic Carnifex; blistering tempos, massive breakdowns, demonic vocals and frostbitten Nordic influences. 

The opening title track wastes no time with a twisting riff and gravity-blasting drums immediately exploding from the gates. It’s grim chorus leans heavily into the band’s blackened side, while the ending breakdown features a classic tempo-drop to hammer it home. Following songs ‘Pray For Peace’, ‘Seven Souls’ and ‘Cursed’ continues Graveside Confessions in the same vein with vicious pace and visceral power. The track’s touches of nu-metal and industrial influence add diversity to their sound, and the unrelenting aggression and heaviness is impossible to deny. The usage of keyboards add layers of atmosphere and symphonic vastness, but never smothers, rather content to sit in the mix behind the walls of guitars and drums. The front half of the LP is certainly stronger than it’s middle and back end, but the thunderous ‘Countess of Perpetual Torment’ is a later-album high point. Packing strong vibes from their Slow Death era, low tuned guitars, minor chords and thunderous beatdowns collide head-on before moving into a big chorus.

Frontman Scott Ian Lewis is still one of the strongest vocalists in the scene, effortlessly delivering raspy high screams, a bellowing roar and thunderous gutturals. His deeply personal lyrics are one of Carnifex’s signature touches, baring his inner demons and struggles throughout – a nice change from the genre’s sometimes cringe-worthy overtly violent and gore obsessed depictions. The core band lineup remains the same since 2007 – a rare stability that is oft seen in any corner of the metal scene. Currently working as a four-piece, Cory Arford does more than a commendable job handing both the lead and rhythm guitars, stepping up to the plate to deliver his own flair on the lead breaks and solos.

The cover of Korn’s ‘Dead Bodies Everywhere’ is a fun addition, and Carnifex add their own flavour to the classic tune without sacrificing the original’s groove and creepy vibe. That being said, it’s not an earth shattering rendition, and it does interrupt the general flow by coming in 2/3rds of the way through. Perhaps it would have worked better as an additional bonus at the end of the album. On the other hand, the closing trio of re-recorded tracks from debut EP Love Lies In Ashes is nice touch to round off the proceedings. With the old-school songs benefitting hugely from the advancements of heavy music production, it works as a fitting tribute to the 15 year anniversary of some of their most revered material. 

Graveside Confessions is an enjoyably punishing release from Carnifex. It’s clear that the band wanted to create the best music possible within their mould, rather than try to push out the boundaries – and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and long time fans will not be disappointed with this album. This style of material has become the bread and butter of their career; a fusion of various classic extreme metal sub-genres melded into their own modern niche. Graveside Confessions serves as a reminder that Carnifex are one of the strongest and consistent groups to come out the mid-00s deathcore scene. Where others have fallen or moved away, Carnifex stand strong.  

Carnifex – Graveside Confessions tracklisting:

1. Graveside Confession
2. Pray For Peace
3. Seven Souls
4. Cursed
5. Carry Us Away
6. Talk To The Dead
7. January Nights
8. Cemetery Wander
9. Countess Of Perpetual Torment
10. Dead Bodies Everywhere
11. Cold Dead Summer
12. Alive For The Last Time
13. Collaborating Like Killers (Graveside Edition)
14. My Heart In Atrophy (Graveside Edition)
15. Slit Wrist Savior (Graveside Edition) 

Rating: 7.5/10
Graveside Confessions is out now through Nuclear Blast. Get it here.
Review By – Andrew Kapper. Twitter: @andrew_kapper

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