Genocide Pact, Genocide Pact (Relapse Records, 2021)

Genocide Pact is another band I'm reviewing that I have a long history with.

I've known drummer Connor Donegan for close to a decade at this point and the Genocide Pact demo made me an instant fan when it was released in 2013.

As time has gone by and the band has not only had the benefit of being able to upgrade their recording capabilities since that practice space demo but also hone their songcraft, I've stayed on board as they released LPs 1 and 2, the 2015 A389 release Forged Through Domination and 2018's Relapse debut, Order of Torment.

The third album is always an interesting point in a band's creative arc in my opinion. The experimentation of the second album has now yielded its results and bands usually get to dialing in which elements from previous records work together and which don't. It is therefore apt that Genocide Pact chose to go self-titled for this release despite it being their third.

This feels like the most realized, accessible and streamlined version of the band thus far and would serve as a great introduction to the band for the uninitiated.

I gotta start by saying that throughout the history of Genocide Pact, one of my favorite things about this band has been very specifically the sound of the ride cymbal bell hits that Connor employs to great effect even as early on as their demo. So imagine my joy at hearing how drum-forward the mix on this record came out and specifically that freaking ride cymbal.

I saw the phrase "stadium death metal" tossed around once or twice on social media about the singles on this record and it honestly feels so apt. The music and production on this record both sound like they're meant to reverberate through large spaces.

Engineer Kevin Bernsten has apparently recorded all 3 Genocide Pact full-lengths and it looks like he and I are in agreement that what every single one of these records needed is a big-sounding drum mix, with emphasis on the cymbal work.

This is evident right out the gate when opening track "Led to Extinction" gets past its unaccompanied guitar intro and is joined by the full band. The drums are very up front in the mix but without overpowering the guitar, bass or vocal tracks. Overall, it feels like every instrument on this record gets to shine in the mix. The bass has its own pocket in the mix so that you can feel its presence even when it's mirroring the rhythm guitar tracks, augmenting the heaviness of the record.

Lead single, "Perverse Dominion," impressed me early on and remains an album highlight even after hearing the whole thing. The harmonizing guitar lead that courses throughout the song sounds extremely fucking evil and catchy as all hell. This is death metal by way of South of Heaven/Seasons in the Abyss-era Slayer. Translation, it's awesome. "Perverse Dominion" like many other tracks on this record, is at its best when the tempo slows.

However, third single "Deprive / Degrade" switches things up by leading with speed and closing with a moshable groove accented with syncopated (you guessed it) ride cymbal bell hits. In a way "Deprive / Degrade" is one of the two most anomalous tracks on the record by virtue of how fast and short it is.

In counterpart, album closer "Industrial Obedience" is an anomaly in the opposite direction. It powers along at a steady tempo for a solid 6 and a half minutes of headbanging. The rest of the songs clock in at a steady 3-4 minutes and are expertly composed to be memorable. Whether it be the dueling harmonies on tracks like "Perverse Dominion" or "Barbaric Regression" or the low-end pummel of "Purged Flesh" or "Industrial Obedience", there's plenty for your ears to latch on to here.

Photo: Brian Boeckman

In the spirit of the "stadium death metal" comments, most of the songs seem to employ a verse-chorus structure usually with a bridge thrown in, oftentimes also a solo. In a way, the songwriting on this record feels less indebted to the death metal acts of yesteryear, but rather to the metal and rock acts of even earlier on.

Indeed, this is a more aggressive take on Black Sabbath, Pentagram, and the ilk without falling into being full-on death-doom. Instead the songs gallop along briskly before pummeling you either with speed or a slow riff. The riffs exist to serve the song rather than falling into the trap of so-called "riff salad" where yeah the riffs are cool, but there's no tracks.

This record has tracks in the most real sense, the kind that stay with you and have you not only humming the riffs but retaining the song's structure. This is death metal with crossover appeal not necessarily to hardcore, but rather to the metal world at large outside of extreme metal. Stadium death metal indeed.

Genocide Pact is here to fill the Bolt Thrower-shaped void in your heart.

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