Extortionist - Devoid Of Love And Light

Deathcore these days is a divided subject, especially in the last four years. Ever since the likes of Whitechapel started including ‘clean’ vocals, more and more bands have followed, some to great success and some not so much. Unique Leader Records is known for their Downtempo Deathcore artists who have included some cleans here and there, but mostly stick on the more brutal side. So, it is a bit of surprise to see Extortionist added to the list, a band that takes that ‘clean vocal’ level to another step, mixing a near perfect balance of what one could say borders Grunge or Nu-Metal with the most basic and brutal of Downtempo Deathcore. The music is divisive on their third full length album, “Devoid of Love and Light,” but listeners will find something to love in between whatever the nay’sayers have spit over the years since they started in 2013. If one likes your brutal ‘Psychosocial’ beer keg bat slams amidst guttural vocals that border Hardcore and emulate the best of older Whitechapel, you’ll love that the album has to offer. If one likes your more late 90s/ early 2000 crooning vocals that border Alice in Chains meets Deftones or the cleans of Chimaira, you’ll enjoy this too. And right at that line is going to be the war of ‘too soft’ vs ‘too hard,’ but at least Extortionist try to keep a balance.

“Devoid…” continues where their EP left off back in 2023 and aims its best for catchy amidst the heavy pounding tracks, and fans deserve that after the near folding of this band back in 2019. Of course like Slayer, they couldn’t stay away and ‘reformed’ back in 2020. Skipping the tension building intro, one is used to the Downtempo crushing riffs on a track like ‘Out of Touch,’ but the Nu-Metal elements come across quickly too with the spoken word parts, and then the chorus hits and it makes one really pay attention. The vocals when not bellowing have that harmonic croon to them that avoids the typical ‘too depressing’ or ‘too off key.’ They sound just right at home in the Rock arena, so that is an extra draw for Extortionist. It should be noted that the vocals on both a harsh and clean level don’t really sound amazing, but they sound right. Like Rob Flynn of Machine Head on an album like “The Blackening.” The cleans do tend to hang out longer than some might like, and as the album goes on they become less and less memorable as they are almost overused, like in the way Times of Grace or Killswitch Engage now does their music, but it sounds good at least without any track that one can say they want or need to skip. ‘A Grim Disconnect’ does a better job on the Downtempo part with just slam after slam and less melodic touches, but compared to what the earlier track, it can tend to sound a bit monotonous as the Downtempo bits don’t quite hold a candle to the Nu-Metal parts that crop up here and there. For whatever reason, maybe its because for the longest time growls and bellows and downtuned chugs and breakdowns galore populated the genre, that when suddenly anything from techno beats to clean vocals pop up suddenly everyone is interested in what it has to say like it is something new.

‘Invisible Scars’ is perhaps the most ‘Nu-Metal’ with its almost Industrial touches, guitar whines, clean vocal delivery amongst the snarls, and will bring back memories of early Slipknot or even recent Winds of Plague. The spoken word bits are a bit hard to understand as they are almost vocoded, but again, a nice touch for variety to bring out a bit more of Nu-Metal flavors amidst the Deathcore. For those who want Deathcore to the, well- core- with no clean vocals whatsoever, ‘Drained of Life’ is as Whitechapel old school as one can get. But, like the other side of a coin, the band flips things around and deliver as close to a ballad they can on nearly all melodic vocal levels with ‘Dissociate.’ Here they use the cleans a bit on overdrive, so most Metal fans will probably sneer at it the way they might have sneered with Whitechapel’s ‘Kin,’ but it helps round of the album by adding ‘that track’ for fans to love or hate compared to the rest. Hard Rock fans will probably gravitate towards this one more than the others for its more melodic approach, and while at the same time it still remains heavy and doesn’t break the flow of the album too much, which is mostly just wave after wave of breakdowns.

Extortionist also know how to create thick, slow pounders that don’t rely on the Nu-Metal elements to lighten things up. The reverb soaked Downtempo grime of ‘When It All Goes Dark’ drags along with the likes of Worm Shepherd, so those who feel they just haven’t gotten their real chance to 2 step mosh will find that here. Even the vocals are awashed in distortion, adding a bit more of the Grunge effect to the music, so the album ends on a heavy, yet solid note. Those who like Within Destruction minus the ‘trapcore’ elements will really enjoy this track, even if they don’t like the clean vocals. Ultimately, one can love or hate “Devoid…’ as it has things that can make one go 50/50 on the album, but it is powerful and stands out as one of the signature releases for Unique Leader’s roster. True there are acts like Humanity’s Last Breath whose Dowtempo Deathcore shakes chests and crushes underfoot like a steamroller and just exuberate sheer loudness, or Alustrium whose mix of Technical Prog Death/ Melodic Death Metal creates a rather epic ride, or even the one off ‘dance driven’ “Corpsepit” from Extermination Dismemberment that can contend as the ‘unique’ part of Unique Leader, but they all just don’t quite turn heads like Extortionist did with “Devoid of Light and Love.” While no one is going to 100 percent love or hate Extortionist, and honestly they will probably be more likely hated, that shouldn’t stop one from listening to one of the better heaviest and emotional listens of 2024. Extortionist is a punch to the throat and also the heart- either way you feel it.    

4.5 / 5 STARS

1. This Is What Haunts Me
2. Out Of Touch
3. A Grim Disconnect
4. Devoid Of Love And Light
5. Stockholm
6. Invisible Scars
7. Desynchronized
8. Drained Of Life
9. Dissociate
10. When It All Goes Dark