Everything that Succumb does well is on full display throughout the scant 85 seconds of “Lilim,” the onslaught of riffs and explosive drum bursts that opens new album XXI. The band make very little time during that sub-minute-and-a-half sprint for grooves or hooks, employing every tool in their arsenal to ensure what little time they use is the most intense dozen or so blinks of an eye that the listener’s ever experienced, galloping through a minefield of machine-gun drum rolls and pinch harmonics toward the elusive reward of a moment to catch one’s breath.
On their sophomore album XXI, the Bay Area band deliver a set of death metal at its absolute filthiest, wringing sounds from their instruments that feel at times too menacing to have been born of something as simple as strings and effects pedals. The band harness an aesthetic darkness that extends beyond mere tone. They seem to capture the sound of impending apocalypse in their music, which is as punishing in its intensity as it is aesthetically captivating.
The explosive energy of “Lilim” can be heard within every track here, but Succumb allow themselves more room to stretch out and explore, to draw even more stunning feats of antagonism from the filth. Where “Maenad” showcases the band’s penchant for full-throated assault—of which vocalist Cheri Musrasrik’s throat is particularly infernal—a track like “Okeanos” surges with circle-pit groove and moments of ominous guitar arpeggio dissonance between the blasts. Yet it’s in the supernatural evil of a song like “Graal” where Succumb’s beastly approach becomes artful and transcendent in its hostility.
The bile-throated, caustic style of death metal that Succumb wields feels particularly apt in an era in an era marked by new strains of paranoia, ignorance and violence. XXI doesn’t directly address the ways in which society seems tilted toward chaos, but it feels like a necessary tonic for it, less a cry of desperation than a weapon of pure catharsis.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.