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Dissonant torment: TOTALED - Lament Review

The mysterious duo welcome you to an abyss on their first ever studio production.

Photograph by Nick Hancock

Blackened hardcore may be a hybrid of two subgenres on opposite sides of the heavy spectrum, but TOTALED's Lament is a perfect example of the musical extremity that results from merging black metal torment and pulverizing hardcore despite the clear difference in sound and influence. TOTALED prove that synchronicity is possible and they do it well. You might not find fans of TWITCHING TOUNGUES and XIBALBA at a BATUSHKA or IMMORTAL show (and vice versa), but both fanbases can agree that pulling together each subgenre's strong points makes for one hell of a listen.

TOTALED came into existence in 2017, immediately beginning work on what would eventually become their debut and first ever release Lament. The album is set to release on March 29, 2019 via Profound Lore with pre-orders shipping now. Having spun this one around multiple times, I'd say this is one you'll want to own in every format.

Before diving into the music itself, it's important to indicate that no record is complete without proper brushwork at the forefront to represent the composition that follows. Lament is aptly fronted by Andrew Tremblay's magnificence, capturing the audial torment in visual form. Tremblay's depiction of human devourment is representative of the lyrical themes of depression, impermeable beings, and hopelessness that TOTALED set forth. Are the devourers an extraterrestrial entity, one's own demons and insecurities, or neither? That's up to you to decide. Regardless of your interpretation, Tremblay's work serves it's purpose.

Those who have taken the time to experience the first two singles Desolate and Transience know that this is not an easy listen, and rightfully so. Sonic attacks like Lament are made to cause discomfort and made to trigger a reaction. The plethora of tremolo picking alongside the blast and d-beats add to the violence brought forth by the tortured screams that transcend the physical being. However, there's a sprinkle of solace interweaved throughout, establishing a balance between peace and suffering.

As confrontational as Lament may seem, the tempo-shifts scattered throughout tracks like Bereft and Eclipsed represent a sense of bliss within the storm. These moments of serenity offer some breathing space in what is otherwise a suffocating menace. Yet just as the peace begins to set in, blast beats come storming and you're back on that treacherous road through the abyss. These shifts occur on a less frequent basis, but they level the playing field and indicate that Lament isn't so much a record that is on the attack from start to finish. It does indeed hit like a freight train, but segments such as those on Bereft and Eclipsed level the playing field.

Among the dissonant storm lies not only tempo shifts, but melodies as serene as something you'd come across in a heavy metal record. After first engaging with the album, you wouldn't expect to find melodies as beautiful as the ones found on As Below, which is paired with a mid-section shift in pace as well. Transience offers another example of the types of melodies present throughout the record, mostly resulting from the meteoric strumming of the unidentified axe-wielder. Similar to the pacing shift, the melodies add another layer of depth to an already flooded display of musical excellence.

One never expects to find electrifying solos on a black metal record, even less a hardcore record, but TOTALED deliver on this front and surprised the living shit out of me upon first listen. While brief in length, they demonstrate extreme technicality and pack a punch that one would not expect from the mosh-pit inducing tracks. Take Hypnosis for example, where the solo is as fast as the blast beat behind it and may very well be my favorite one of the year so far. As the tempo shifts down, the fretwork kicks it back up with razor sharp tapping and explosive picking. Consider these a hidden gem among the barrage of tremolos because they're not placed where you expect them to be.

TOTALED's blackened hardcore assault merges two opposite extremes with clear cut precision and leaves charred remains wherever this eight-track demon lays foot. Layers upon layers of musical elements and twists and turns at every corner make this a record that commands multiple sit downs to fully engage in it's hellish wonders. Offering no previous efforts to indulge in, the yet-unidentified unit have set the bar high for any of their forthcoming musical outings given the sheer excellence of Lament.

Overall score: 9/10

FFO: Hexis, Rolo Tomassi, Dödsrit, Dark Circles

Lament is out on March 29, 2019 via Profound Lore. Pre-orders are available here.

Cover art by Andrew Tremblay


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