CarnifexSan Diego is sunny. Carnifex, who come from there, are not. This is their fifth album of “your worst nightmare” deathcore.

Alarm bells ring. They herald a technical onslaught, supported by a chugging machine. It’s a bit tick-box: growling bass, hellish vocals and hammering drums. “Salvation is Dead” is irregular and steady enough not to get carried away in excited frenzy. Here is carnage. There’s a good solo but I got to learn that Carnifex are not ostentatious. It’s about the juggernaut rolling through a city near you and crushing you … with a mini-break near the end in the case of “Salvation is Dead”. “Dark Days” then expands into an unexpected symphonic world but only briefly as brutal, swirling blackened death is the main item on the agenda. Deep, dark and imperious, it’s like being swung mercilessly against a wall. The intensity is momentarily broken up with piece of melancholically threatening guitar work. There are some nice patterns and touches. “Condemned to Decay” continues the dark intensity. Swirling around, it has a mechanical quality yet sparks fly as it takes off in all directions. There are classical touches but it ends with the sounds of a factory process. “Watch me die without hope” is the byword of the title track. It’s the mixture of elements which once again make this interesting. Imperious and dingy, this one has melodic progressions for the first time. The song “Die Without Hope” is atmospheric and even djenty in places but nothing will detract from the onslaught or aggression. This is like marching through steel.

One hard-hitting pattern follows another. Doses of measured punishment are dished out with each note. The punch is reinforced with a duality of vocals, but there’s noting clean about either. This is “Hatred and Slaughter”. There’s a reflective dark patch, then the onslaught resumes. As the measured pace reflects human torture and suffering. There’s plenty going on in the drum and guitar departments. Both combine to retain a gruesome and spooky atmosphere. The pace picks up for a second on “Rotten Souls” before returning to customary systematic butchering. It’s all uncompromising and brutal but as the album draws into its last three tracks, it doesn’t rise a notch. That would be hard but expectations have become high. Of course “Last Words” is uncompromising, brutal and forward-moving but the interest lay in earlier tracks. “Reflection of the Forgotten” suggests a epic finish as it leads into “Where The Light Dies”, but the pattern is familiar. Uncompromising brutality arises from the cascading guitars and thundering drums. After a break, the juggernaut returns and takes us back to familiar territory. “Where The Light Dies” ends with a piece of classical piano. I’m not so sure about that. Surely this was the time for the epic explosion which makes us want to come back for more?

I’m never sure that deathcore as a genre has a sufficiently full and expansive range of tricks, great as it is as a live medium. With this homage to death and destruction Carnifex generate the excitement of a live set. “Die Without Help” is efficient and effective.

(7.5/10 Andrew Doherty)