REVIEW: AVERSIONS CROWN – “Hell Will Come For Us All”
Branding and image are important facets of any art and media products we consume, and as much as we self-anointed elitist metalheads would like to contest it, metal bands and records are not immune to branding. Sooner or later, bands become synonymous with their branding and image: Eddie the zombie and Iron Maiden, the Grim Reaper and Children of Bodom, the Skull, and As I Lay Dying, Jester and In Flames, etc. Additionally, symbolism, and lyrical content are often shaped and shapes the image and subsequently brand with which a band comes to be associated. The heaps of inverted crosses, pentagrams, anti-religious themes, corpse paint, spiked bands, etc that adorns most “trve kvlt” black metal, the blood and gore of death metal, heck even the masks and jumpsuits for Slipknot, every aspect of which is heavily enmeshed into the image of the genre, artist, and their work. The reason branding is being brought up is that it evokes a sense of expectation from ardent fans of the band. When there is a sharp turn away, or a change of motif, in the branding, it leaves fans and longtime consumers with a sense of confusion, which inevitably leads to frustration. Which brings us to Brisbane’s Aversions Crown.
The Aussie deathcore outfit had their own brand, their own image, which shaped their album cover art, song titles, and lyrical themes: ALIENS! Their first three records, “Servitude”, “Tyrant”, and most recently, 2017’s “Xenocide” heavily relied on alien imagery to a point where it became their schtick, to a point that with the band bursting through to larger overseas audiences with “Xenocide”, fans jokingly referred to their microgenre as “aliencore”. This is not to say that Aversions Crown wasn’t a devastating technical deathcore band without their extraterrestrial gimmick, but as mentioned earlier, fans attached themselves to the meme. But something became starkly apparent when 2020’s “Hell Will Come For Us All” was announced, along with the new album art (praise be to Eliran Kantor, who is always a win!): NO ALIENS! This was further exacerbated with the release of the album’s two singles, which are also the first two tracks of the record: “The Soil” and “Born in the Gutter”, which drove fans to confusion, and predictable frustration. Zombified chants of “WHERE ARE THE ALIENS, BRING BACK THE ALIENS!” poured through every forum, news outlet, and Aversions social media pages.
Let’s tackle the misgivings.
The album art does indeed have an alien in it, admittedly with a more infernal backdrop rather than the synthetic invasion themes fans of earlier artwork have come to associate with Aversions Crown. Secondly, judging by merely the song titles, “Paradigm”, “Caught in The System”, “Scourge of Violence”, “Hymn of Violence” and others can surely allude to sci-fi, although more discreetly. Next up, the lyrical themes while not being as hamfisted as earlier releases like “Overseer” and “Prismatic Abyss”, the latter of which has become a meme unto itself, are more earthbound and is pointed towards the suffering around us. Yes, this will inevitably lead to political themes as politics and violence that spews from the powers that be are tightly interlaced with earthly suffering, which could not have been more perfectly timed judging by the turmoil all around us.
Frequent and vocal complaints have been made by Aversions Crown’s passionate fanbase that “Hell Will Come For Us All” is a step towards mainstream deathcore and their signature sound is being morphed and diluted to sound like other genre titans like Thy Art is Murder and Fit For An Autopsy (coming off their own massively successful record “The Sea of Tragic Beasts”). There is some merit to these complaints, yet they are overblown. Yes, the lyrical themes are less fantastical and as earlier mentioned creepy warily closer to the eminent domain of FFAA and TAIM. But there is an other-worldly spin to the lyrical content further backed by larger-than-this-planet soundscapes which diverge significantly from the bands against which Aversions Crown are being unfairly smooshed.
The comparisons to TAIM and FFAA continue, this time in terms of the music itself, and this is also jumping the gun. Admittedly, the comparisons/complaints stem from the released singles “The Soil” and “Born In The Gutter”. I do wish Aversions Crown decided upon any of the other tracks to release as singles instead of the ones they chose. In fact, “Hymn of Annihilation” would have been the perfect mix of a throwback to the “Xenocide”/”Tyrant” sound with new flairs that carry through “Hell Will Come For Us All”. “Hymn of Annihilation” has the eight-string low-end djent feel to it with the trademark Aversions Crown ambience, interspersed with tech-death infused razor-sharp riffs and lightning-fast drumming. If this track was traded out with any of the released singles, the album would not be met with trepidation at least and total boycott at worst. “Scourge of Violence” and “Caught In The System” would also have been worthy substitutes as they represent the Aversions Crown evolution in a less jarring way.
While there are various sections and elements on “The Soil”, “Born in The Gutter” which do share parallels with TAIM and FFAA, the musicianship does carry the trademark Aversions Crown heft, brutality, ferocity, and utter grandiosity, for which the aliencore gods are known. Yes, “Paradigm” opens with a riff lifted from TAIM’s “Reign of Darkness” (off their career-defining record “Hate”), and has elements of other “Hate”-era TAIM, tracks like “Caught In The System”, “Hymn of Annihilation”, and album closer “The Final Judgment” are firmly Aversions Crown territory. Numerous arrangements of rumbling low-end guitar riffs backed by the keyboard-driven ambience, thundering double bass and adrenaline-laced blast beats are all over “Hell Will Come For Us All”. Say what you want, “Born In The Gutter” is as tech-deathcore as Aversions Crown has ever been, and in a vacuum, without the comparisons, is an exquisite piece of extreme metal. In contrast, “Sorrow Never Sleeps” focuses on creating atmosphere with large open chords and epic keyboard arrangements yet keeps pace with the rest of the album via the drum work. Album closer “The Final Judgment” is frankly cinematic as it weaves in and out of keyboard sections, aggressive guitar riffs, spoken words, lengthy melancholic parts (echoing FFAA), and is a stellar way to close out a veritable above-average and even great record.
The personnel change in general, and the presence of new vocalist Tyler Miller (after the departure of fan-favorite Mark Poida) also brings in the loud dissenters, but as with rest of the complaints are unfair in context. Yes, Poida may have a larger range of higher register shrieks and lower growls, but Miller brings in his own arsenal of unrelenting rage (in some ways similar to TAIM’s CJ McMahon, although decidedly better enunciated), and he puts his best efforts to remarkable effect throughout “Hell Will Come For Us All”. Yes, some of his scream-cleans do resemble Joe Badolato (FFAA), but nobody has a patent over a vocal style. And Miller uses these techniques with maturity and in sections where it perfectly complements the music and themes, so it is not stark. Guitarists Michael Jeffery and Chris Cougan mix in the old Aversions Crown sound with this fresh new coat of blood. Drummer Jayden Mason is personally this listener’s favorite aspect of Aversions Crown, he is unrelenting as he is masterful in his arrangements. The production on “Hell Will Come For Us All” is also without complaint, although it does sound very similar and hence interchangeable with many other recent deathcore and tech-deathcore releases, which is not always a bad thing.
Hell Will Come For Us All is an extremely competent, brutal, technical, and dense deathcore record, which fans may not give a fair shake to because of a change in branding, and perceived “selling out” of their sounds, both of which are unfair complaints, borne off knee-jerk initial reactions. If anything, this is a good lesson in brand marketing and its effect on consumers for the band, and one in appreciating content while stripping away the image for the listeners. Aversions Crown is at a crossroads with Hell Will Come For Us All, only time will tell whether they launch up to the cosmos or sink deeper into the depths with future records!