BUSAN, South Korea — Busan’s long running deathcore metal band, To My Last Breath, officially formed in 2008, although they have been playing together long before that as the members of their former incarnation, "Mad Butcher." The time they have been together shows in the tight sound they continue to produce, bringing brutally beautiful and highly technical riffs, melodic twin guitars and earth stomping breakdowns infused with low pitch growling and screaming.
I actually had the honour of naming them and they are a good group of lads.
The reason I chose to write a review about them goes beyond self-congratulations over the fact that I gave them their moniker; this group of musicians deserve this level of attention. In fact, my connection to them with Realize Records Korea actually makes me more critical, as I feel I can "say it to their face" and as I know the background and motivations.No, I now write this as I have been taken aback by their latest offering. In short I am a big fan of their stark originality in this ever increasing world of capture-regurgitate.
The first thing I noticed looking at their recently released disk, The Deadly Horde, is the striking and very poignant artwork by Remy C of “Headsplit Design”. It was produced soon after the UK riots in 2011. These uprisings themselves being ripple effects of the example made in the Middle-eastern (Tunisian/Egyptian) revolutions. Which were around the time the concepts for this album were first being made. With my musical background (and Honours Degree in Visual arts and Culture) I feel both the music and the artwork depict these revolts and uprisings which themselves are the result of an increasing global tyranny of greed and consumerism. Which in turn seem to be the result of; Politics, Religious division and the “Military-Industrial-Complex”, as president Eisenhower spoke of in his farewell address way back when.
Anyway, that’s my take; back to the music, which is something very special indeed.
Their previous work It Will be Buried on Calmness was also a striking display of skill and technique. I would best have described it is "Technical DeathCore". This latest offering, The Deadly Horde, retains that influence but has developed significantly into something much less often heard. In general, I dare say never heard unless someone has the balls and rarely seen creative spark to take a huge step out of mainstream formulas and dabble into abstract themes or something like “math metal.”
Although this is all the more true here, albeit a result of a stunted musical growth for political reasons, that kept metal and rock out until the 90’s. Specifically in this case, the band may fit into a spin off of progressive (math) metal known as the "Djent" movement that grew out of Sweden's own Meshuggah (based on an onomatopoeic description of their guitar sound “Djent.”)
Yet, To My Last Breath has taken that influence without the need to mimic it so closely as most do, with most things. Obviously, Korea does NOT have the monopoly on imitation.
Yes, it is experimental, technical, beautiful, powerful, abstract and all in all, awesome. Especially more so, as I heard the initial demo version last year when it was still one long track. Yes kids, that’s how it came to be. These guys are pioneers for Korean metal, especially their main songwriter and guitarist Sang-Yul Song.
Track by Track Review: The Deadly Horde
1- For Eternal Reign
From a full on multi layered sonic attack compressed into an intro, the vocals burst straight in with the perfection of their guitar sound. Soon after more harmonies flow into discordant “organized chaos” that I feel flows beautifully –showing its past present and future, by way of their musical journey. While, the subject matter of the lyrics poses the question of whether or not the common man is the figurehead of his own undoing – “Are we controlling our thinking and impulse by ourselves…?”. Suggesting that the money masters are pulling the strings behind the “eternal reign”
2- Your Life on the Dead
This is where the album really gets going. This was the kick-in on the original full album length track. You can hear it from the first cymbal count in. It is a concise moment of explosive revelation. “Your Just a consumables, were just a consumables too, refuse and be outraged and express your just you and behave like you wanna feel your living.” Right on brother, language aside, lead singer,Gun-Wook, tells it like it is. No turning back now. Meanwhile the music is powerful and drives their point home “Fight against Capital…” and this tracks ends softly with a euphoric moment of “Vai-esque” solo guitar.
3- Obscurely Proud
This track fades in (which fits the previous sentiment) then bursts out at you with the vitriolic statement “end your fucking proud” which seems aimed directly at the powers-that-be themselves and their bitter pride, that is not shared by the majority –much as the 99% of the ongoing (at this time) “Occupy” movement echoes. This track is deep, the stomping grinding guitars drive home the point: “Look at your own reflection, in the two mirrors, if there are two mirrors, so you could see your duality.” Hot on the heels of this sentiment is a series of melodic buildups with euphoric a peak followed by a swift left hook of a pounding beatdown accompanied by the lyrics, “smash their pride, make them your own”. Their trademark technical lightning thrash, and epic riffs follow through and into the next euphoric peak that delivers a grinding ending “…enlightenment NOW… That’s my solution.”
4- The Deadly Horde
This title track stomps its foot down and lets itself be known with an immensely technical riff and a continued use of an intricate, multi-layered structure. It stands out amongst the other gems here. At first I thought “the deadly horde” was us, coming for “their” blood, but shortly into the track I was wondering if it could indeed be “them.” As they live behind the scenes, apart from the world, behind lies and secret doors. The words, “the deadly horde, suffering silently behind,” is an interesting spin on the lamentation and contempt that “they’ve committed crime, without fail.” He even calls for us to “Start a revolution” although he immediately comments on how “despite shouting out, this fucking truth wouldn’t be heard.” Well I can hear it here and rides along well with the immense genius of the composition and the musical accompaniment and, in this track, it ends with a brutal assault, kicking and screaming to the last note.
With a grinding groove at the start of its engine, its clear this track is another one that will stand out. “Bloody war beneath the sun” is indeed a fitting first line for this track. As its tank-like momentum grinds, straight through with its ongoing “multi-layered” groove and melodic seasoning. “Always expecting miracle, we call out the name God.” The track has a nice mid point solo that is followed with more of the same inertia we have come to love and expect from To my last breath as they are paired with the sentiment that “opportunities may bring you the new world” but later on he states in reflection that it is an “illusion” (and if you want it, he will become it) he then says “will you see” the “absurd truth?"
6- Decaying Wealth
Well, if I thought the stamp down of the Deadly horde was hard, this track just smacked the complacence off my face. Sang-Yul has really dropped the demolition ball here. From the get go it gets right out there and knocks you for six with the matched statement “we lost our innocence in wealth” –damn straight. Once elevated into a state of financial or societal wealth, do seem tend to treat those we deem “below us” as rotting meat and livestock. It’s a complex structured riffage that still grooves really well and I dare you to resist banging your head to it! Soon enough (one of my favourite lines) Gun-Wook says “this is my prophecy, this is my life, this is your life, something we didn’t get, something they took away, and then for those, suffering from them” this is followed with a rare moment of riffage that is like the calm before the storm, and not an explosive storm as so often done, but a smooth, building storm that peaks with another moment of their twin guitar solo harmony that is a trademark of the band and one or two others on their label. It leads on to than coarse stomp of an outro, I can almost see the spin kicks and windmills in the pit now.
7- Deceiving the Humanity
“There is a deceiver, there’s something we cant see, deceiving the humanity, we will finish this repetition.” Yes, truly we are constantly deceiving our humanity in seemingly infinite spirals spreading out and leaving destruction behind. This sentiment is matched with what we now come to expect, Sang-Yul’s multilayered grinding grooves, as the lyrics state “I have the solution” which seems to be offered at the end of the track with more floor punching stomps and technical riffage as its accompaniment “stop getting around the real issue, but confront, so we need to make sacrifices? Despite my blood and SACRIFICE YOURSELF…” wow. That says, fuck you to the “man” in a whole new way. Nice. It brings a tear to my eye. Ha!
8- In This Wretched…
It burns in with a fade, and dives right into your ears. This ending track, that was originally the outro for the conceptual piece that this was constructed from, is a fitting end to a great album. It has a drilling riff that almost tunnels sonically right into your soul! “this endless war, now material is more important than human, we’re becoming supplies, recources for human…hurry our death” despite any linguistic barriers and such, his point is clear and the music is flawless. The vibe of the guitar is perfect. It’s a journey and this is reaching a destination right here as the final words reveal -“I can SEE.” Hopefully the rest of us will soon too, before its too late.
This blend of social commentary on globalization, greed, corruption and yet, balance with a pity for those who lock themselves away from life, is matched with technical riffs, melody, euphoria and power that ONLY this band can deliver. In Korea at least. I can't wait to hear what they come out with next.
You can hear more from To My Last Breath on their MySpace music page.
Ed Campbell is originally from Manchester, born to a Jamaican father and a Polish mother. He is a vegetarian, philosopher-cum-rocker, who performs vocals for Busan's FATALFEAR and you'll likely catch him at KSU's Club Realize. Busan is his second love, only to his wife and, of course, music. Email him at: email@example.com