Album Title: Downfall
Label: The Artisan Era
Date of Release: 8 July 2022
Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, Greylotus are a relatively new and emerging name in the technical death metal arena. They released an EP in 2018 entitled ‘Savior’, and toured in the US with Abiotic, Cognitive, and God Of Nothing in 2019. Just last weekend, they came to the shores of Blighty to play on the UK Tech Fest bill alongside the likes of Scar Symmetry, The Ocean Collective, and God Is An Astronaut. And now, in 2022, they are on the cusp of releasing their debut album.
Entitled ‘Downfall’, this first full-length record feels like a massive smack in the face in a number of ways. Firstly, the nine tracks spread across nearly three-quarters of an hour contain some pretty hefty and aggressive sounds, with blast beats and rabid riffs in plentiful supply. Then there’s the complexity of the music too, which is impressive in itself, but when coupled with a myriad of different styles, influences, and genres, it becomes quite an intense and daunting prospect. The jewel in the crown though, is the way in which the quintet manages to pull everything together thanks to an inspired and liberal use of melody. I’ve listened to a lot of technical and extreme death metal these past few months, and not all of them succeed because the balance is not quite right as far as I’m concerned. Greylotus don’t suffer from this however, which means that I have become quite smitten with ‘Downfall’.
Admittedly, the album is not perfect; there are some rough edges that will, in time, likely be ironed out. On occasion, for my tastes, the music does veer a little too far into metalcore territory, and a few of the transitions from idea to idea come across as a little clunky or contrived. Plus, at times, the sheer breadth of experimentation on offer does call into question the exact identity of the band. However, that’s where the criticism ends because the rest is pure positivity as far as I’m concerned.
To quote the band directly, “‘Downfall’ explores the self-doubt that accompanies the realization that healing is a non-linear process. It wanders through the pits of self-judgment and confronts what follows when an individual accepts that the best version of themselves is not constrained by perfection.” No wonder then that the music is so varied, given the subject matter, which is a deep and interesting topic for sure.
Given the paucity of information about the band on the press release and across the Internet, you’ll have to forgive me if I am mistaken, but I understand the quintet to be comprised of guitarists Ben Towles and Sanjay Kumar, drummer Matt Tillett, bassist Drewsif Reynolds, and vocalist Lee Mintz. They waste no time in laying waste to our ears either as ‘Rectilinear Motion’ explodes from the speakers in a breathless, extreme attack of ferocious drumming, lightning fast almost neo-classical-style riffs and leads, and savage, possessed screams. The whole thing is laced with a grandiose feel though, thanks to layers of synths, and after a minute or two, an incredibly elegant melody that cuts through the extremity like a knife through butter. It is gone in a flash, but it leaves a lasting impression throughout the next section of the track which offers real cut and thrust thanks to more complex musicianship. A moment of quiet near ambience takes over, the signal for yet more melodic interplay, albeit this time accented by more of a progressive gown. And with that, after one more furious blast of extremity, it’s gone.
With head still reeling, I willingly dive straight into the rest of the album, to uncover what’s in store. The immediate answer is ‘Shadow Archetype’, an initially uncompromising slab of death metal that features deeper vocal growls overall, as well as a greater use of bold and more modern electronic sounds, culminating in a full-on electronic section for a few moments. I’m not sure the song required the ensuing breakdown, as I much prefer the breezier, more melodic closing flourish, capped off by some insanely good lead guitar playing.
The intro to ‘Currents’ is pure melodic death metal nectar, full of precision and elegant, almost epic melody. The remainder of the track isn’t bad either, featuring the first use of clean vocals in a layered, choral manner to only reinforce my ‘epic’ description. And yet, as the song develops, we’re suddenly taken into some twisted death metal-meets-grindcore aural nightmare that then segues into the fastest drumming I’ve heard in a while. Melody is never far away though, as this track borders ‘catchy’ territory which I lap up gleefully. The addition of the string orchestral sounds towards the end is the icing on an already delicious cake.
‘Chiaroscuro’ features spoken-word sections set to an ambient soundscape, the voice gentle and soothing with an English accent (bonus points there gentlemen!), whilst much of the remainder of the song feels like a barely contained, violent stream of consciousness, where the instruments go wherever they please, molten, fluid, and organic. The ending minute or two of ‘Capgras Delusion’ is stunning too, as the pace slows and quickens at will, but retains a wonderful sense of melodic intent. I could have done without the shouted spoken-word part that feels a little unnecessary and slightly ham-fisted, but that aside, the second half of the song is just about flawless.
I could go on with the same level of detail, but instead I’ll mention the sonic destruction created by the classic death metal muscle and pinched harmonics within the opening half of ‘Syzygy’ which I love (the second half suffers from delving too deeply into cliched metalcore realms) as well as the delicate beauty of the introduction to ‘Hoarfrost’. And what about the latter stages of the title track? After a blitz of uncompromising progressive death metal, we’re suddenly met with clean vocals that soar, alongside equally vibrant guitars, a dancing bass, and wondrous, uplifting melodies.
It seems almost fitting that the final track, ‘Azure Rain’ is arguably the most stunning song of them all. There are bursts of breakneck speed, heaviness, and complexity, but the song is built around exquisite melody, ambient textures, deep atmospherics, and in so doing, ends the album in near-perfect fashion. It features a smattering of just about every style of music heard in the preceding eight tracks, from metalcore to electronic, but it just works and gives me a few chills in the process. Yes, there are a couple of minor things I’d change, but that in itself is in keeping with the album as a whole.
And what an album ‘Downfall’ is. Warts and all, I have taken it to my heart, and I feel so grateful to have heard it. As I’ve said many times before, there’s no better feeling than being blindsided by a new band, and Greylotus is that band on this occasion. Every single established technical death metal band needs to watch out, because with more time and experience, Greylotus could become the new force to be reckoned with in the genre. Some will find the melodic sensibilities not to their taste or feel that it dilutes some of the intensity. But I’m not one of those, and as such, cannot recommend Greylotus’ debut, ‘Downfall’ more highly.
The Score of Much Metal: 93%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
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