Somewhere between downtempo and beatdown deathcore lies the stomping grounds of The Last Ten Seconds of Life. The Pennsylvanian group strikes a compelling balance between low-and-slow breakdowns and unhinged fight riffs, with some groove metal and brutal death mixed in for good measure. Incidentally, the three years since dropping Machina Non Grata saw a more pronounced scene-wide transition from downtempo to beatdown as the cutting-edge trend. Rather than choose between one or the other, The Last Ten Seconds of Life forges their own path with their new self-titled album.
If the bomb-blast drums, lumbering guitar chugs and 808 drops of "Invictus Unto Fire" aren't enough clarification, then allow the following "Zapffe Isn't Invited to the Party" and "The Sabbath" to display The Last Ten Seconds Of Life at their most violent. Guitarist Wyatt McLaughlin switching up his riffs while knowing when to circle back to primitive violence, as vocalist John Robert Centorrino balances an impressive amount of guttural lows, high screams and blood-boiling mosh calls. It's a fairly well-trodden sound for the band, but they offer far more than monochromatic brutality.
There's something hilariously cathartic about hearing a Southern lady threatening to "bubble-wrap your heart and FedEx it to your mama" before the slam of "Guillotine Queen" hits, but the cathartic hilarity stands out largely because a lot of The Last Ten Seconds Of Life isn't overly focused on tough guy posturing. Yes, the beefy bottom string abuse of "Sickness In Seattle" will please longtime fans, but it opens with a surprisingly distinctive and dissonant riff, not to mention a sticky hi-hat groove at the midpoint. It also seamlessly transitions to the tasteful guitar solo and moody spoken word of instrumental "Suicide Watch," a cut that spotlights the nuanced approach taken by The Last Ten Seconds Of Life.
The clean tones gliding sound natural enough over the punishing bass groove and rap-scream flows within "Hate What You Love," but even the 50-second ambient interlude "Wasted" is only the tip of the iceberg as far as The Last Ten Seconds Of Life throwing curveballs. The Gojiria style scream-sing melodies that start "Birth Of The Butcher" seem appropriate enough, but the clean vocals are a true shock on an otherwise viscerally aggressive album, along with the song's fadeout of dreamy guitar chords. And then… there's "Vampire (A Blood Ballad)."
No one could have expected an a capella vocoder intro from The Last Ten Seconds Of Life. "Vampire" exhibits the extent of these guys' disdain for boundaries. They even recontextualize the intro melody for a doomy chorus that transitions into… wait… an acoustic serenade?? Centorrino's catchy, yet disconcerting singing voice works surprisingly well within the band's devastating sonic signature, while also leading the charge into new territory. A blood ballad indeed, leaning into off-putting weirdness instead of radio-friendliness.
Though not as strange, the gloomy down section of "Altar Of Poison" features compelling chord progressions and compelling vocal melodies as well. It functions more as a contrast to the brutality than a compromise. That's why the double-kick syncopation and emphatic riff changes can remain focal points for "Glory Be 2 Misery," instead of just the sticky hook. There's always a return to ultra slow caveman beatdowns to remind everyone what The Last Ten Seconds Of Life are really all about.
It's worth pointing out that these accessible moments feel like an extension of the band's artistry. The singing has a very distinct timbre, to the point where it might take a few listens to understand its place in The Last Ten Seconds Of Life. It's also a great example of "most heavy, but most melodic" done right. Grooves don't necessarily become less menacing on "A Lesson On Self-Preservation" once singing enters the picture. The arrangement progresses from The Last Ten Seconds Of Life in all their violent glory, to mature atmospheric explorations. Perhaps this explains why it wouldn't be impossible to trick someone into thinking the outro "Procession" is actually from a more recent Amorphis album. Those resonant leads and grand modulations aren't at all typical for The Last Ten Seconds Of Life's style.
The Last Ten Seconds Of Life is the sound of a band attempting to transcend the turning of tides within their scene. Instead of jumping on board with beatdown like a lot of deathcore bands have (or blackened deathcore, for that matter), they've added some truly strange ornamentations to their style. The cool part is, it still sounds like The Last Ten Seconds Of Life. This is their way of writing music, and they pull it off while giving pit warriors plenty of opportunities to vent. Such an uncommon balance should be commended when it pops up in the genre.