Survivalist – ‘VII’ Album Launch Show w/ Molarbear & Neon Empire
The Speakeasy on the Lisburn road tonight hosts the album launch of one of Northern Ireland’s hidden gems, Survivalist who came to the fore in the 2020 M2TM competition before everything went Pete Tong. Even In the early days of this band, we knew there was something pretty special in the bones and with the pandemic stealing two years of our lives it allowed Survivalist to knuckle down and hone their craft and the result with everything we had expected and more. This evening the guys are joined by Molarbear & Neon Empire for a great nights craic.
The Distortion Project proudly presents the launch show for “VII”, the debut album from Belfast Metalcore purveyors Survivalist. This release is destined to become one of the highlights of heavy music in 2022. The band comments ” ‘VII’ and it’s concept are based on the seven deadly sins. Each track tells it’s own, individual story as well as being part of something bigger. With orchestral intros, Slamming riffs that are equal parts groove and djent, Melodic Chorus hooks and Huge, crushing breakdowns there is something here for everyone”
Without rambling on about something everybody is sick of hearing about, everyone has felt the impact of the recent global pandemic on the music industry. Formed in 2019, Survivalist became arguably one of the biggest new local hype trains of the “before times” with their debut single and album opener “In Which I Envy”, which was enough of an earworm to have crowds singalong at their debut live performance. A perfect choice for a first track, Gavin Sharp’s bellowing chorus melody blends seamlessly with the lead guitars to immediately grab the listener’s attention and get the blood flowing. You could easily be forgiven for being lulled into a false sense of security by the hauntingly beautiful piano concerto the album version leads with, and whilst the entire album is chock full of melody, rest assured that everything from this point onwards maintains a devastatingly heavy standard.
The tracks that immediately follow; “End on Lust” and “Greed and Obsession” will be familiar to existing fans as part of the generous helping of singles that have allowed the band to grow an impressive listener base despite the inability to physically promote themselves in a live format. Keen-eared listeners will notice, however, that these are not simply the single versions recycled. Survivalist’s new drummer Ben Simpson has maintained the pummelling pace of the initial release while adding fresh new accents and fills throughout the album to make sure listeners are getting their money’s worth.
One of the other familiar tracks on the album, “Pride Brings Ruination” delivers a whole new layer of fun for the guitar-nerds listening. Lead guitarist Thomas Marshall showcases his technical skill with extremely slick and well-placed use of pitch shifting, making for satisfyingly iconic lead lines without sounding repetitive, all while being steadfastly supported by rhythm guitarist Stuart Mcloughlin. The bridge section gives a brief respite from the relentless pace of the album, with Nick Butcher’s steady bass rhythm rumbling beneath softer vocals allowing the listener a moment to catch their breath before breaching into a powerful crescendo to close the song out. Far from leaving you feeling winded, this leads brilliantly into the pounding double-kick beat down at the beginning of “The Gluttony of a God”. The biggest standout on the album in terms of vocal range, in the pre-chorus Gavin manages to use his impressive diaphragm control to punch the listener right in the chest before switching to a much smoother melodic style for the chorus. The song could easily end at 3 minutes and be enough to satisfy any listener, but just for good measure, the band provides an extra 47 seconds of heft with a riff from guitar power couple Tom and Stu that is certain to break a few necks in the near future.
The penultimate track, “With Wrath” is a pure metalcore classic, and fans of the genre will appreciate what feels like a nod to many icons of the genre at once. Dissonant lead guitars and vocals in the chorus accompanied with crushing screams and a steadily delivered rhythm carry through to a destructive and powerful outro, including one of the few non-cringeworthy uses of the line “I am become death” in a song. Finally, “Of Mindfulness and Sloth” feels like the closest thing to a ballad you’ll get from this band. The closing song covers every base in terms of production value, from its enchanting vocal harmonies and subtle tapping leads to the huge orchestral section leading into the emotional finish of a musical journey that has been delivered on every possible level from the beginning to the end.
It is abundantly clear to any listener how much thought and attention to detail has been put into the entire production from the inception. From the obvious biblical naming theme of the album, all the way to the more subtle aspects of the release like the initial piano composition provided by the traditional Irish music virtuoso Stefan Fraser, everybody who has had even the slightest bit of influence on this release brings a wealth of experience and skill that is composed masterfully into the final ensemble. And while many may feel that 7 tracks are a few short of a full album, every single track has a purpose, none of them is skippable filler, and even the order of the tracks makes a lot of sense in terms of pacing. Another crystal-clear mix job and more immeasurable production value provided by Josh Robinson of JSR Audioreally puts the icing on the cake, allowing every individual band member the opportunity to shine through, successfully conveying every emotion intended while keeping everything sounding crisp and modern. It feels like it should be an extremely safe bet to say that this album will stand as a classic of the Irish metal scene in decades to come (both locally and beyond) with the most difficult question to answer now being “How do they plan to top this?”
For a band’s debut album, that’s definitely a great problem to have.
“VII” releases on all major platforms on 04/03/2022