2005 Century Media Records
1. Bulletproof Scales
2. Silver Plated Advocate MP3
4. Warm Blooded
6. The Sunset Will Never Charm Us
7. As Bridges Burn
8. Harvesting The Deceased
9. End This Day
Mark down the year 2005 in your diary as the turning point when a supremely streamlined mixture of grind, tech, and death finally began to impose on larger metal audiences its viciousness as a musical style and a resolute defiance of traditional song structures. To this mix, add some breakdowns and a sextet of musicians, some of whom are barely into adulthood, and Montreal's Despised Icon are the sum.
But when they released their debut album Consumed By Your Poison on Galy Records in 2002, their style was much more evocative of early Suffocation and Pestilence with added grind; an approach that gained them a small underground fanbase already familiar with the challenging, unrelenting nature of early death metal, but also one that served to limit the band's potential as their ideas were highly derivative. So it is important to note that on their newest, The Healing Process, they have not even evolved from the old style, but rather adopted an entirely new one. While I tend to be very critical of bands making drastic changes between two albums, Despised Icon had the difficult challenge of trying to make me forget why I hate change so much. And they did so by bashing my head in with this album.
One of the main reasons this hodgepodge style of extreme music is becoming so popular, aside from the very ADD-friendly songwriting approach, is the flattering production that more and more albums are being blessed with. Having Yannick St-Amand as your guitarist, as Despised Icon do, doesn't hurt; he is arguably the premier point man for extreme metal in Quebec. His work as engineer and producer for Quebec's two biggest bands, Neuraxis and Kataklysm, is proof enough of that. And as much as producers are obsessed with self-improvement, he seems just as focused on improving his guitar sense in a band whose competition (like The Red Chord and Into The Moat) is hot on his heels. The start-stop opening riff of first track "Bulletproof Scales" displays a common trait of the album, which is simply much more interesting and captivating guitar work than their previous album, so even though the band's songs differ dramatically from their earlier work, they must have known exactly where they wanted to go in taking such a risk because it paid off.
Tracks like "Silver Plated Advocate" and "Immaculate" feature the most chugging hardcore than Despised Icon has ever written, but the digestibility of the intros and breakdowns rooted in this style is offset by the tense grind parts and slow death outtros. Other songs, like "Bulletproof Scales" and "Retina," reverse the formula and start off at hyper-speed but then settle into chugging choruses and bridges, if they can even be called that. Even on songs like "The Sun Will Never Charm Us" and closer "End This Day," the new hardcore influence is hard to ignore, although its presence is tasteful and extremely well-synthesized.
Bottom Line: As a young band and potentially the leaders of a style set to be an increasingly common soundtrack for a generation of identity-seeking, ADD-afflicted youth, Despised Icon made a wise choice altering their sound so early in their career; even if it was at the expense of their former early death and grind style. Best leave that style to the veterans who are still writing it. The countless breakdowns on The Healing Process are sure to make the album and its songs a pit favorite, while the flawless display of grind and death will gain the band credibility in the extreme scene; perhaps not as much as if they had continued on their initial path, but this is a band not content on remaining confined to one scene, and with The Healing Process they make a convincing argument as to why they should not be chastised for their growth.