Remember when deathcore was exciting and fun? Pepperidge Farm remembers. Even the dead horse I beat to make that joke remembers. Back when you gals could do the side part and we all wore Etnies without a second thought, folks like Whitechapel, Suicide Silence, and Carnifex dominated the iPod playlists of Warped Tour patrons who were too edgy for Chiodos or AFI. While the death metal bastards had been eviscerating and slicing and dicing for years at that point, putting them to breakdowns just hit the youths different, y’know? Well, Italian deathcore veteran act The Modern Age Slavery is here to make you aware of social issues and do so by channeling what it feels like to be trampled in the mosh pit.
It’s a tad tragic that fourth full-length 1901 | The First Mother comes out the same year as vegan deathcore act To The Grave’s excellent Director’s Cuts, because you’ll see similar curb-stomping tendencies. Vocalist from hell? Check. Chunky riffs? Check. A death metal presence that injects more rabid tempos than usual sometimes? Check. Slight electronic presence? Check. Breakdowns? Checkety check check. Is there plenty of commentary on worldwide economics and the resulting marginalization and near-slavery of workers? Absolutely, and worthwhile. Ultimately, while the lyrics are more than worth a read, there are only sparse moments of musical interest across The Modern Age Slavery’s overlong sea of -core.
If it’s brutality you seek, you shall find plenty in 1901 – for better and for worse. Each track features every form of deathcore punishment, from the bone-crushing breakdowns of “KLLD” and “OXYgen” to the blistering riffs of “Lilibeth” and “Irradiate All the Earth.” Vocalist Giovanni Berselli is a monster, his sermonic roars commanding the stage, blistering lyrics searing the breakdowns into the brain, while desperation courses through more contemplative tracks like “The Hip” or closer “The Age of Great Man.” While avoiding comparisons to blackened or symphonic deathcore, a grandiose synth presence adds an epic dimension to the sound, elevating tracks like bruiser “Nytric” or scathing intro “Pro Patria Mori.” Weaponizing this more melodic style are tracks like “Lilibeth,” “Overture to Silence,” and closer “The Age of Great Man,” which feature a melodic heartbeat through contemplative plucking or soaring synth. The latter stands out in particular, because, recalling Fit for an Autopsy’s “Swing the Axe,” it intriguingly features an atmospheric presence alongside chugs that take on a more desperate or mournful meaning.
Much of the thirty-eight minute runtime flies by without much distinction, breakdowns beat down without much meaning, and veteran skills feel feeble in comparison to the mediocrity. While his gutturals feel absolutely devastating, Berselli’s mid-range barks emulate The Holy Guile’s Saud Ahmed in a grating quality when overuse occurs – defanging tracks like “The Hip” and “OXYgen.” What is frustrating is that, because of its similarity other established deathcore acts, The Modern Age Slavery can feel like a watered-down version of those better outfits, mainly due to the relatively weak production, which smooths the rough edges and dulls the sound in favor of an auditory grime. The one-liner in “KKLD” feels like a weaker version of Upon a Burning Body’s “Carlito’s Way,” the blistering riff of “Lillibeth” feels like a less punishing take of To The Grave’s “Red Dot Sight,” and the death metal blitz of “Overture to Silence” feels like a lackluster interpretation of Resist the Thought’s “Resurrect the Reaper.” The final two tracks highlight this mixed mix painfully: while “The Age of Great Man” is nearly ethereal in its nimble riffs and symphonic overlays, closing Korn cover “Blind” derails any progress made in favor of nu-metal simplicity with horrendously loud singing.
The Modern Age Slavery is deathcore – what more do you want? The lyrics are an easy highlight, basing their platform off expert quotes and thoughtful explanation of misanthropy and economic manipulation. In this way, it measures up to Director’s Cuts in its call for activism and the dismantling of toxic systems. Musically, however, 1901 only shines in select segments, and you’ll have to tread a lot of mediocrity to reach them. Even then, the frustration remains that 1901’s putrid mix damages what little brutality reaches the surface. In the end, 1901 | The First Mother feels at least a hundred years too late.