For all the incredibly primal, carnal thrills that most deathcore can offer, the point still stands that it can be one of the more limited genres out there. There’s definitely weight that can be placed on bringing the right amounts of heft in all the right places, but the fact that it can feel so rote and formulaic a good deal of the time isn’t exactly a good thing, especially when it comes to finding a way to stand out. Thus, it makes sense to attribute the elevated status of Despised Icon to the fact that they’ve simply been doing this longer than others; musically, they’re a prime example of staying well below the waterline in terms of creativity, following the deathcore handbook basically to the letter and getting by on inertia alone. And in a way that’s respectable, especially for how the band have built up such a following behind them from embracing that very level of consistency, but it also puts a question mark behind what each subsequent release can actually achieve, and how long it’ll be before Despised Icon’s pendulum swings from reliable to simply boring.
And with Purgatory, they’re probably being caught mid-swing, but ultimately it’s closer to the former than the latter. This is very much another by-the-book release for Despised Icon, complete with all the trimmings that have been associated with them for ages at this point, but it’s not like that veneer of familiarity is quite enough to stop the bludgeoning heaviness from having something close to its desired impact, nor does a fairly brief runtime hurt what it’s going for. It does need to be stressed, however, that Despised Icon aren’t exactly reaching for the stars here, and the amount of forgettability here isn’t that negligible that it can just be ignored, but at the same time, Purgatory really is just another dose of what’s always worked for Despised Icon, and even if that impact has been slightly diminished over time, it does the same now.
Thus, it’s not like there’s a great deal to analyse here; it’s effectively a continuation of Despised Icon’s usual formula in almost every way, but the fact that there’s still life within that is praiseworthy in itself. For one, this is a band who’ve never shied away from being as devastatingly heavy as they can, and the likes of Light Speed and Apex Predator do more than enough to live up to that, especially in Alex Pelletier’s drum work which frequently stands as the album’s highest point for just how dexterous and detailled it is while simultaneously never letting up on its intensity. A lot beyond that does fall into the usual deathcore mould, and while that can mean it’s difficult to isolate much in the way of standout moments, Despised Icon chug along with enough force to make a solid impact pretty much across the board. It can fall into a bout of formula that isn’t exactly gripping – there’s only so many times that the combination of blast beats and pig squeals can be reworked before ideas start to overlap rather drastically – but there’s a definite individual streak to Vie D’Anges being sung entirely in French (even if the translated content doesn’t deviate much from a lot of standard genre themes across the rest of the album), and as far as proficiency goes, it’s hard to deny that this band are still more than capable of pulling off what they do. It’s not exactly incredible by any means, but there’s enough here to at least get a kick out of, and for Despised Icon especially, that’s something that shouldn’t really be understated.
At the same time though, it’s not like Purgatory is going to change much of the narrative around them within deathcore; it’s merely another block to add to their status of being reliable rather than revolutionary, something which it wears prominently on its sleeve and does begin to feel the toll of in relation to the rest of what the genre’s biggest and best have to offer. But this is still solid overall, not really dipping into anything that’s outright bad, and performed and produced well enough to please the target audience for whom this has been tailor-made for. And that’s really what matters the most to be honest, especially when Despised Icon have been around long enough to know what expected of them, and delivering it with efficiency is undoubtedly a good thing. It wouldn’t hurt to broaden their views just a bit, but even without that, this is still fine enough. For a deathcore fix, it goes down easy enough, and that’s what really matters at the end of the day.
For fans of: Job For A Cowboy, All Shall Perish, Oceano
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Purgatory’ by Despised Icon is out now on Nuclear Blast Records.