Bound in Fear’s Eternal EP from April this year set expectations high for their follow up record. The Surrey deathcore bruisers are one of the more interesting bands on Unique Leader Records among the formulaic artists that clog up the roster. But their downbeat brand of chugging deathcore suffers from the same sort of fatigue that defines their genre of music. Extended plays are great, but full-length records are harder to execute.
Opener, ‘(De)Scendance’ features the obligatory guest appearance from ex-Sylosis/Viscera, frontman, Jamie Graham, and sets the scene with a chunky production and a flurry of double-kick patterns. There’s not much to complain about here. Imagine a hardcore band playing eight-string guitars in the tuning of drop-G with death metal malevolence instead of street violence. Underneath it all is a subtle layer of ambient unease crafted with the care of an effects pedal and nurtured with a whispered sense of paranoia.
They continue this dual approach of chugging riffs and obtuse atmospherics on ‘Penance’ and take the brave approach of stripping the distorted guitars out for long periods. This gives the drums and bass room to breathe and the vocals a chance to stew in the naked environment of a post-rock cauldron. More of this would be welcome.
It’s not that Bound in Fear lack zest on this record. ‘Scar of Man’ enlists Alluvial vocalist, Kevin Müller, and mixes low-end crunch notes with bizarre sweep-picking passages to balance the audio range away from the bubbling bog of down-tuned binary riffing. Speaking of bogs, they even have a song called, ‘Beyond the Mire’. This cut takes more of a groove metal shape and subsists on a reverse pitch bend grinding through your neck muscles like a slowmotion strangulation. Here is where Bound in Fear ignore the potential for melody in favour of the abstract dissonance of ambient guitars, and it’s a triumphant experiment. These boys are confident in their sound and know how to achieve it with the murder weapons at their disposal.
Perhaps a better name for this record would be Chugs and Glitches and Various Profanities. We all love the sledge-hammer sound of a palm-muted guitar, but the sheer quantity of open-string djun-djun onomatopoeia makes for a tedious experience on ‘Adrenaline’ and ‘Sadist’. Ben Mason’s thuggish threats of violence are not likely to win an award for poetic articulation any time soon. “Run your fucking mouth/ You ain’t tough – just a fucking bitch,” he roars on ‘Cutthroat’. Mmm… Charming. You begin to see why ‘Nu11’ is one of the standout tracks with a smattering of clean vocals. The Slipknot bounce riff might be a little stale, but the guitars make better use of the fretboard and experiment with some unusual chord choices.
Bound in Fear avoid the caricature trap but remain buried underneath the claustrophobia of their own sound. Closing track, ‘Polarity’, shows great promise in the way they introduce baritone backing harmonies into their dark ambient musings, yet it never achieves its true emotive potential. This is the main issue with Penance – it’s a good effort, but it could be better.
Release Date: 15/10/2021
Record Label: Unique Leader Records
Standout tracks: Scar of Man, Cutthroat, Nu11
Suggested Further Listening: Distant – Aeons of Oblivion (2021), Viscera – Obsidian (2020), Osiah – Loss (2021)