When discussing death metal, people like me often describe the mangling torment it can do to your body and the imagined trauma one would go through when listening to this style of music. It makes total sense as it’s awash in brutality, but let’s not discount the idea that death metal can challenge your brain as well and whatever’s going on in your mind.
San Francisco-based death crawlers Succumb very much can leave you exhausted and bruised with their music, but they add so much more than that, which they prove again on their excellent second record “XXI.” The title of the album comes from the final Major Arcana card in the tarot deck, and it symbolizes the end of a life cycle or pause before the start of the new life cycle. The album takes on themes such as the elements and their natural deities (and they’re likely plotting their revenge on us for how we’re treating this place), Lilith, the Boxer Rebellion, Arthurian literature, and many other fertile, thought-provoking ideas, with vocalist/lyricist Cheri Musrasrik drawing on poets/writers such as William Butler Yeats, Jean Genet, and Émile Zola to fully flourish her gripping words. Her performance is like that of a demon trying to inform the world of the ills that ravage it while the rest of the band—guitarist Derek Webster, bassist/vocalist Kirk Spaseff, drummer Harry Cantwell—launches into terrain that is mind-ripping, destructive, and slaughtering, which will do a number on your sanity.
“Lilim” opens the record with chaotic tension, unloading and snarling with the howls stampeding, the guitars slicing into your muscles, and the track running headlong into “Maenad” that slowly boils in the juices of the nasty growls. “They danced around a phallic stone, giving over to revels and rages,” Musrasrik snarls as pure soot smudges, the guitars soar before touching back down, and abrasive disorientation leaves you gripping for the walls. “Okeanos” stirs the turmoil, clobbering as the vocals aggravated oil fires. “Foam in a revolving whorl touches an unknown and sublime abyss,” Musrasrik sneers with your psyche stomped into the ground, corroding and delivering a mauling finish. “Smoke” punches as the guitars go off, and an unsettling pace gets into your chest and rewires your electric impulses. The vocals ensnare you in a steel trap, poking at you, while the violence increases, mauling as you lie there prone, unable to defend yourself as the track disappears into a noise void.
“Graal” scrambles impulses as it starts as guitars hang in the air and sting the senses, with vicious growls swiping at you. “A divine substance held in the bloody relic, illusory phantoms, and secret words spoken to a knave,” Musrasrik digs as parts of the song get muddy and dangerously slow before things fire up again and thrash mightily, stomping out its foe. “Aither” is another quick burst that comes in absolutely on fire, stabbing and splattering, driving its fist through you as you crumble to the ground. “Soma” smashes its way in, bringing furnace heat and a tempo that continually intensifies. Madness takes hold as noise rings, the vocals trample, and the swirling storm goes right for your throat. “8 Trigrams” closes the record, starting with militaristic drums and ominous tones, setting a strange ambiance that soon aims to remove your head. Things get dizzying and odd, with Musrasrik wailing, “Headless fighters and spirit guards are at war with mortals, shadowboxers moving in unison and covered by protective charms.” Total slaughter is achieved, bringing maniacal and dangerous sentiments, peeling away at your psyche and scalding your flesh as you writhe and beg for psychological mercy.
Trying to capture Succumb in words is nearly impossible, though we gave it a shot, and it’s up to you if we captured the insanity that surrounds “XXI.” But this is a band that, while they are shedding blood in terrain others have trampled, they’re doing it in ways that are terrifying and smothering in a way no one has done before and likely ever will again. This is an altogether different breed of death metal and a band that is seeing fit to deface it in any way they see fit based on their mission.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/succumbsf
To buy the album, go here: https://nowflensing.com/collections/flenser-releases
For more on the label, go here: https://nowflensing.com/