Album Review: BABIRUSA - Humanoid
Review by Anthony Melboune
Deathcore upstarts BABIRUSA have made quite the name for themselves in their short existence, positioning themselves as forerunners for the deathcore crown in Australian heavy music. After releasing their first single in mid-2019 and subsequent singles in early-2020, they gained themselves quite a lot of hype, especially considering that the band is made up with current and ex-members of local favourites Tomb of Doom, I, Valiance, A Night in Texas, The Senate and Crowned in Flesh, so understandably there would be a certain amount of expectation that whatever comes out of these guys is going to be undeniably brutal and heavy.
Their sound is very easily categorized as technical deathcore along the lines of Aversions Crown and Shadow of Intent, with strong elements of technical and progressive death metal intertwined with swathes of melodic death and traditional deathcore with a hint of slam – transitioning from sweep picked arpeggios, palm muted chugs and slams to blast beats and lightning fast drum fills with ease – with an emphasis on crafting intricate, thoughtful and catchy riffs and let’s not forget the use of two vocalists.
For some reason duel vocal deathcore, or extreme metal in general has been very few and far between – genre luminaries Despised Icon as well as newer bands such as AngelMaker, have proved that it could be done and done well, for whatever reason the trend just never took, but BABIRUSA clearly never got that memo – going from shrill black metal highs to deathcore signature mid-range vocal style to brutal death’s guttural lows, all while exhibiting a song writing and production quality that is at an international level, one would not expect any less from the very capable hands of Sean Delander (Thy Art Is Murder) and Dan Field at the helm, handling production and engineering duties respectively.
You can’t talk about this album without mentioning its concept – Man vs Machine – Not necessarily a original concept by any means but one that is still incredibly relevant in this day and age, a concept that has transcended generations and all form of media, through books (Dune, The Humanoids, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? etc.), film (The Matrix & Terminator franchises, Blade Runner etc.), television (Black Mirror etc.) and music (Fear Factory etc.)
The first track titled ‘343’ – is a human who is pulled into a cybernetic world by artificial intelligence. Opening with clean guitars and bass with a harmonized lead that builds behind a sample (or a soliloquy?) that asks itself questions of purpose and it’s perceived memories, all while the music grows in intensity until it coalesces and breaks, fading out and unfurling the first single and second track, ‘DESOLATION SYSTEM’, starting off with a quick drum fill and a chugging riff, the two front-men use their extensive range to bounce off of one another, sharing similarities in their individual style yet, playing to their strengths and layering for full effect. But while the vocalists get to show off, drummer Rangi Barnes is in the back, effortlessly keeping the pace and groove while guitarists Tate Senhenn & Dean White seem to do laps of the fret-board culminating in a huge breakdown.
Track three, ‘HUMANOID’, continues the narrative with the assistance of another sample, further deepening the dilemma our protagonist is engulfed in, while still contemplating whether or not it is in fact alive, or if it even matters at all. The sample concludes with chaotic, spiralling guitars that sound like what I imagine trepanning without anaesthesia feels like, before launching into an almost djent/groove chug part, transitioning into tech death frenetic fret-board wizardry that would make Necrophagist blush, while Rheese and Kyle continue eviscerate their vocal chords, before breaking into a guitar solo and melodic death-esque riff section that gives me a fair amount of The Black Dahlia Murder vibes, which I really enjoy, a welcome injection of melody in the almost anxiety inducing riffage returns before the massive breakdown, building up and gaining momentum, culminating in a guitar solo and sinister tremolo riff and blast beat section that eventually fades into oblivion.
‘CATATONIA’, the third single begins with both vocalists proclaiming “We are the only ones who see the world for what it is!” before the rest of the band joins in, luring the listener into a false sense of security before changing the tempo from a mid-paced groove section to lightning fast tech death, slowing down just enough for a slow, menacing build up allowing you catch your breath and to believe for a second that a breakdown was coming but instead, speeding up even faster than before, until completely slowing down for an epic guitar solo and an almost discordant black metal tremolo riff section, closing out the track with a sample; the continuation of the story leading into ‘REFLECTION’, a short instrumental giving us further insight into the story of ‘343’.
Segueing on from track 5 – ‘PENDULUM SWING’, ominous clean guitar strums behind a sample telling the main character, “It’s time to become a part of all things…”, launching into a very catchy groove orientated and bouncy djent chug riff that is sure to get the crowd moving – then putting the foot on the gas with a chaotic riff section that winds and swirls, stopping and starting on a whim, maintaining the groove until crowning with an earth shattering breakdown.
‘RESISTOR’ wastes no time, getting right to business, with an astonishingly fast and elaborate riff that would feel right at home on a Deeds of Flesh or Decrepit Birth record, which is just fantastic, Tate and Dean shine especially bright here, the riffs are complex and have a neo-classical quality to them, especially with the quiet choir effect behind them – an accompanying chug part with the appropriate amount of guitar bends for full effect before breaking into a quick jazz interlude that merely stalls long enough to demolish you with an absolutely crushing breakdown, fading out and into ‘ABOMINATION’, the second single maintains a mid-paced tempo and bouncy feel for that keeps up the intensity and groove, while the vocalists execute rapid fire vocal attacks back and forth, Rangi’s drumming is particularly impressive here.
‘DEHUMANIZED POPULACE’ grinds along with vicious chugs, harmonized shrill high pitched screams and Gutturals, eviscerating your senses with a homage to tech death that would make Chuck Schuldiner proud, until the Breakdown hits you like a truck, this one is sure to be a crowd favourite, while ‘ZEROHOUR’, the final outro track, laden with samples and epic guitar harmonies concluding our protagonist, ‘343’s fateful journey of self-discovery and alienation.
Overall, this is a phenomenal debut album – ultimately a bold choice to do a concept record for your first, but given the experience in song writing that the various members possess, it’s not surprising that they pulled it off in spades.
Babirusa's debut album 'Humanoid' will be released on Friday August 28th.