The fact that Cursed Earth have managed to bounce back from what could’ve been a potentially killing blow is a remarkable act of resilience. They were one of the rare occurrences of a band in the Australian hardcore scene feeling vital and as though they had something to prove, in no small part down to vocalist Jazmine Luders being a vital and unique presence within the scene. But following her departure after numerous complicated and messy events, it could’ve left Cursed Earth high and dry, particularly within a genre that’s already so cluttered and notoriously difficult to stand out in. So to bounce back with The Deathbed Sessions almost feels like a stroke of genius, bringing together a number of vocalists to tackle a song each in an endeavour to bring a sense of freshness and diversity to a stagnant scene, as well as open up plenty of new doors to pivot towards going forward in whatever way they see fit.
At least, that could’ve been the intention on paper. It’s hardly an ignoble one either, but after listening to The Deathbed Sessions, it becomes abundantly clear that this should be treated distinctly as its own thing. It’s probably why it’s being classified as a mixtape, bringing together a number of disparate ideas and collating them away from Cursed Earth’s main body of work where they can stand unhindered as more of a curio than anything else. It’s the most beneficial way to view it, anyway; as a cross-section of modern heavy music, this is definitely worth a listen, especially when Cursed Earth present it with a necessary level of brutality, but with no effort made to hide how clearly this is a collection of disparate parts, it’s not something that can really be taken forward.
But that’s fine, especially given that both Cursed Earth and their guests seem to embrace that ideology. Taken as individual pieces that aren’t really meant to coalesce into something larger, this is as potent and direct as a twenty-minute blast of hardcore gets, doubling down on pitch-black production that makes an already monolithic guitar tone sound even more imposing, and circling around historical violence and acts of evil in its subject matter ensures that not a single ray of light is emitted from this entire release. It’s something that each guest vocalist is more than happy to oblige with as well; it works greatly in its most direct form, like the pure rage the comes from Kublai Khan’s Matt Honeycutt on Fear or the savage turns from Venom Prison’s Larissa Stupar on Tyranny Forever, but it’s the interplay between Make Them Suffer’s Booka Nile and Sean Harmanis on Deathbed that’s the most impressive, the former playing the role of melodic, malevolent foil to the more blunt firepower of the latter. It’s a much-needed shot of variety in a sound that’s frequently starved of it, and while that’s not always the case (Justice For The Damned’s Nick Adams and Aversions Crown’s Mark Poida achieve more or less the exact same results on their cuts), it’s interesting to see how Cursed Earth have curated this twisting of a base formula while keeping the core components the same. As much as these songs should be ideally taken as their own individual entities, the building blocks of this EP staying the same creates a good level of consistency that’s always adhered to, and that accentuates just how much this level of brutality plays a key role within Cursed Earth’s sound.
And sure, this isn’t a game-changing release by any means, but for a pseudo-reinvention with a decent amount of creative intent behind it, The Deathbed Sessions does a great deal right. It’s meat-and-potatoes metallic hardcore that has all the necessary crushing power to work, but manages to edge above the competition with its collaborative intent and the further freshness that brings. It probably won’t last, especially when Cursed Earth fully solidify once again and release more new music as a core unit, but this is an interesting stepping stone to get to that point to an extent that would be worth investigating further, and for a listen with plenty of brawn that still manages to hold onto attention, this is worth a look.
For fans of: Harm’s Way, Knocked Loose, Kublai Khan
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘The Deathbed Sessions’ by Cursed Earth is released on 31st May on UNFD.