Some of you will know Bryce Seditz as the guitarist and vocalist of blackened sludge metal trio, Plaguewielder. He always wanted to record an industrial album, but the inertia of the Covid quarantine accelerated his plans and inspired him to invest in a laptop and interface to figure out how Trent Reznor made The Downward Spiral. The result is Above & Below, Bryce’s solo project that aims to capture the gloom of the Ohio rust belt. You’ll have no reason to visit the Steubenville district of his home state after one listen to Suffer Decay Alone. But that’s the point.
Perhaps Bryce’s background in the roaring noise of sludge metal is the main reason why his solo project is equal parts industrial and post-metal. Nine Inch Nails are not the main course here, but you’ll hear Godflesh, especially their 1992 LP, Pure. The latter is now the second most influential album on post-metal after the Neurosis classic, Souls at Zero, and you can hear the grinding grooves of Justin Broadrick all over this record. Yest, despite this, opener, ‘Ghosts’, fools you into thinking the nu metal/industrial hybrid of 3Teeth will inform the direction of Suffer Decay Alone. The spooky high-frequency keyboard effects could be right from Korn’s 2007 untitled album, but the vibrating bass loops and mechanical beats are anything but nu metal. Bryce’s distorted scream vocals conjure images of a man behind barbed wire pleading to escape from his self-enforced captivity. The fuzz of the bass will leave you with chest convulsions.
One litmus test for industrial music is whether it will fill a dance floor with leather-clad goths and cyber punks. On this score, Suffer Decay Alone is far too introspective to subjugate its listener to the beat. This is not a bad thing, either. ‘Rust’ is similar to ‘Ghosts’, but it ruminates with apprehension and foreboding. You can tell that Bryce spent most of his time learning how to write music beyond his normal reach. Listen how he syncopates the bass fuzz in time with the thudding drums here and on ‘Hope’. A few tricks he picked up along the way are evident as well. Switching to a different drum kit sample half-way through a song is something Depeche Mode did to great effect with 1990’s ‘Sweetest Perfection’. The programming for the double-kick pad is just as impressive for the shoulder-swaying groove that persists throughout this LP. Indeed, you could say that the biggest strength of this record is the way it uses the same beat in every song without sounding predictable or saturated in any way.
Perhaps the only time you can detect a nu metal influence is in the severe cut technique Bryce uses for the main riff to ‘Isolate’. Limp Bizkit did the same thing on ‘Break Stuff’, but so did Immolation on ‘Incineration Process’ from their latest album (which should ease your conscience). It’s a simple chug riff padded with vocal overdrive, yet it works. In fact, most things on this record are a success. You’ll ask the question more than once on repeat listens: is Bryce screaming or exhaling the words? Either way, the cold aggression will convince you that you have the tools and stamina to burrow your way out of a mine shaft on this song and on ‘Tear’.
The only thing holding back Suffer Decay Alone is its duration. This LP is a short-length affair at seven tracks and twenty-seven minutes. A couple more songs that ease off the enslaving grind beats in favour of a more ambient sense of agoraphobia would not go amiss. But challenging an album to be longer is hardly a major criticism. Maybe it’s because two of the main influences – Godflesh and Neurosis – are artists renowned for their long album meditations.
Should the Plaguewielder fanbase be worried that the frontman’s side-project might supplant them in the future? Of course not. Both can co-exist and continue to benefit from Bryce’s ever-evolving craftsmanship
Release Date: 17/06/2022
Record Label: Disorder Recordings
Standout tracks: Ghosts, Hope, Isolate
Suggested Further Listening: Godflesh – Pure (1992), 3Teeth – <shutdown.exe> (2017), Northmaan – Northmaan (2021)