Every now and again, a Christian band rampages from the underground so forcefully that even anti-theists pay respect. For the deathcore crowd, that recognition indisputably goes to Impending Doom. This Riverside powerhouse formed 13 years ago with plans of "worshipping God through gore-sounding music," and took the gore-grind/death metal scene by surprise with 2005's The Sin and Doom of Godless Men demo. While 2007's Nailed. Dead. Risen. hinted at the fledgeling deathcore sound of the time, the following year'sThe Serpent Servant tightened their sound with influence from old Slipknot.
After There Will Be Violence's more melodic stint, 2012's Baptized in Filth and 2013's Death Will Reign saw Impending Doom hit their stride in ball-busting grooves, guttural brutality and a ridiculously thick guitar tone wrapped in a nu metal-inspired package. After five years out of the game, the announcement of their 2018 comeback LP The Sin and Doom Vol. II caused massive excitement throughout the deathcore community—and for good reason. Impending Dooms return signals their unapologetic embrace of the most primitive, no-holds-bared elements of their style.
Though its title may have raised hopes for Impending Doom's return to death-grind, Vol. II's singles stand very much in line with the ultra heavy nu-deathcore stylings of the past two records—if anything, they've doubled down. Brandon "Btown" Trahan's jackhammer blast beats and nasty double-bass grooves drive steadfast thug-and-chug guitars, less-is-more melodic sensibilities and eerie ambience. The latter track sports more of Manny Contreras and Eric Correa's Cannibal Corpse-inspired riffage and rhythmic dynamics than the former's pounding simplicity, with Brook Reeves solidifying an obliterating experience through his disgusting, yet disipherable gutturals and unflinchingly honest lyrics. "Sometimes I wouldn't blame God if he lit the world on fire," is tailor-made for a band who has no problem wearing their faith on their sleeve as they kick ass and take names.
With N.D.R. producer Christpher Eck back behind the sound board, the sheer size of Vol. II could level mountain ranges. From David Sittig's filthy bass tone to tectonic Meshuggah-esque string bends, everything about this record carries a premeditated weight. "War Music" spotlights this use of heaviness as an actual instrument within tried-and-true double bass bursts, high-end guitar noodling and the band's signature depth charge drops. There's no overstating it... these songs feel like an elephant drowning in lead. Impending Doom effectively eliminate the need for pleasantries, going straight for the jugular.
Vol. II chocks its 36-minutes full of visceral intent. "Burn," "EVIL," and "The Serpent's Tongue" may not crack the three-minute mark, but their short-fused battery perfectly encapsulates Impending Doom's unbridled sonic assault. Between the first track's bombshell chugs and catchy syncopation, the second's thrashing speed and head-splitting guitar squeals or the third's harmonized tremolo picking and double-kick syncopation, they remain distinct and catchy in their barbaric intensity. Reeves capitalizes on this backdrop with his confrontational stance against corrupt religiosity and luke-warm faith—as summarized by his condemnation of evildoers in the church in "Burn" and the pre-breakdown callout of "The Serpents Tongue:" "I am a Christian. A faithful man of God. Come at me."
"Enough is Enough, your religion of greed is out of control," Reeves bellows in the final moments of "Paved With Bones," continuing his ongoing war against Christian legalism. This song's agile hammeron guitar-work and atmospheric tremolo picking evidence Impending Doom's attention to sending chills up spines before snapping said spines the Bain-to-Batman treatment. They're not here to wow anyone with their technical ability, but their beefcake grooves have an almost scientific execution.
The nuances of Vol II often keep its lack of meticulous composition from becoming boring, which allow "Unbroken" to rise as a particularly infectious track with an unforgettable lead riff carrying it through pulverizing bomb blasts and thrashing rhythm changes. Even as the outro features the bass, drums and rhythm guitar in their most basic form, the syncopated mid-range lead shines through as the real catalyst for the song's feel. In a similar way, "Devil's Den" elevates what could have become a watered down Slipknot jam into a head-crushing slugfest by confidently asserting themselves as a hard-hitting, no nonsense juggernaut of low-end decimation—bringing the fight straight to the listener as Reeves roars, "I stand at the gates of your hell, and bring the power of a mighty God."
The sheer power and ferocity of Vol II rings true throughout its relatively short runtime, but closing curveball "Run For Your Life (She Calls)" epitomizes the fine-tuned thoughtfulness with its genuinely unnerving aura. The song may find its bread and butter in quarter note triplets and china cymbal abuse, but its electronic-tinged refrain, brooding growls and inexplicable drum solo section end the album with its most diverse track. For all its primal rage, Vol. II solidifies itself as Impending Doom's most consistent record to date.
BOTTOM LINE: Comeback records are notoriously tricky for any band striving to progress as musicians without compromising themselves or disappointing their fans. The Sin and DoomVol. II is hardly a surprise, but Impending Doom succeed due to their commitment to the sound they've used to acquire legendary status in the modern deathcore scene. Whether or not the band will transcend its stylistic confines in future releases remains to be seem, but their decision to hold no punches this time around pays off remarkably.
Standout Track: "Unbroken"
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