You’ll Succumb to Succumb on Succumb (A Review)
Alternate Title: Succumb’s Succumb Will Make You Succumb to Succumb.
Note: Typing the word “succumb” that many times in a row is a reality-warping experience. Not recommended for those suffering from vertigo, irritable bowel syndrome or a weak heart.
Begin Review: Was last year a good year for death metal? I don’t remember. I seem to recall 2016 being a year of eclecticism, with no single genre trouncing the others. Thus far, 2017 is a different story*. Unless black or doom or thrash or power (kidding; not a chance) can get their shit together, death metal is going to take all the cake this year and leave none for the rest of us. If things continue to trend in the direction they’re currently trending, death metal will wipe the floor with the bloodied pulp which passes for the remains of the other genres we know and love or know and hate or know and don’t care about. Enter San Francisco’s Succumb. With their self-titled debut album (Succumb), these scene toddlers crawl onto the table, mash their tiny fists into the cake and smear it all over their chubby little faces, somehow managing to get a bit of it in their mouths in the process. Love them, hate them, don’t care about them: any way you dice it, they have arrived to continue the glorious trend.
Succumb introduce themselves with “The Initiate”, a bold shot across the bow of your diminutive seafaring vessel. It is a short instrumental, rent by off-kilter grooves which quickly get back on their kilter and drag you overboard into eel-infested waters. At once grimy and technical, it’s a bit of a show-off. “Hey, look what we can do. You like? You want more? Okay–but first you must succummmmmmmmmmb.” And succumb you will. Probably. Unless you’re one of those hard-headed types who arrive late to the show and stand all the way in the back with your arms crossed, refusing to tap your foot or nod your head, much less jump in the pit.
After the appetizer of “The Initiate”, we get our first full taste of Succumb’s flavor profile with “Destroyer II”. Now before you get lost in tangential pondering over what happened to “Destroyer I”, let me put your mind at ease: I don’t know either. Maybe it got drunk and fell down an elevator shaft? What I do know is that its sequel is an obtuse, all meat and no veggies banger. It cycles so rapidly through so many riff-of-the-year caliber riffs that I’d kind of rather curl up into a ball and shake than describe them all. Seriously, there is practically a full album’s worth of gnarly, woozy, browbeaty riffs packed into this economical four minutes and forty-five seconds. They veer with an extreme deficit of attention between unhinged fretboard acrobatics and downtuned filth-gobbling chugs. They’re propelled by indefatigable, cardiovascular-workout-style drumming which has a tendency to steal the show. And they’re all caked in that kind of uncouth and foreboding crust which appears in your underwear the morning after a night of hard drinking, hard drugging, and hard fucking with—??? You’ve awoken in the bed of a complete stranger; your mouth tastes like a scene from one of the first two Hellraiser movies; your dermis is covered in strange bruises; and there’s a mysterious grayish/brownish/greenish/reddish crust in your underwear which seems to portend a visit to your local STD clinic. Yeah, that’s the kind of crust Succumb leaves behind.
No point breaking this thing down song-by-song. “Destroyer II” is essentially a microcosm for everything you will hear on Succumb. Namely, a whirlwind of busy and complex performances buttressed by grooves so thick-headed even the most eternally stoned of your stoner friends could follow along. If you love it, you are highly likely to love this album. If not, give up now. Variety is not the spice of your life with Succumb. Your life with Succumb is an ascetic one, defined by a dogmatic allegiance to rifflust; to production values of old applied to songs full of modern zeal and flair. And hey, while we’re on the subject, let’s give some props to the production job. It’s gritty, yet the grit doesn’t obscure the intricate guitar work or the flatulent bass or the drummer’s egalitarian insistence upon abusing every piece of his set in any given five-second stretch. It is spacious enough to permit each instrument to assert its voice, yet not so spacious that it exiles the instruments to the dead center of some yawning subterranean cavern.
What else? Oh yeah. We’re not getting out of here without discussing those vocals. These are not your grandmother’s death metal vocals. Sure, guttural growls make a cameo here and there, but the bulk of the lyrics are executed by punky, high-pitched yowling. Imagine you are a child with a full bladder trying to get into the bathroom. On the other side of the locked door your bitter, hate-addled mother is smoking meth and hollering at you–between hiccups full of bile–to go play in traffic. Depending on your allegiance to genre conventions, these vocals will be either a major selling point or a major chink in Succumb’s armor. For me, it was an instant case of the former. I can’t lie and say the vocals are “good” by any stretch of the definition–but they are certainly a breath of fresh air. And in a genre which was essentially defined by disgusting, inhuman anti-vocals, I can’t see any reason for this to constitute a problem. And if you think it does, well–NO CAKE FOR YOU.
2017 ISN’T EVEN HALF OVER AND WE’RE ALMOST OUT OF CAKE