LOUDER REVIEWS:'How to Survive a Funeral' - Make Them Suffer
Riding the wave of high-quality Australian bands who have brought out high quality heavy music over the last decade, Make Them Suffer are probably still not the household names that the likes of Parkway Drive and Thy Art Is Murder can lay claim to. Nevertheless, the five-piece from Perth have been making a name for themselves on these shores over the last through years thanks to their innovative blend of deathcore with some lighter and more progressive elements that are quite the rarity in a subgenre which tends to value brutality and breakdowns above all else. Never content with sticking to one core sound, Make Them Suffer have experimented and mixed things up throughout their career, leading up to the highly rated album 'Worlds Apart' released in 2017. Since then, they have had two singles, '27' and 'Hollowed Heart' and, until recently, a relentless touring schedule to keep fans keen. However, it was the announcement of their upcoming fourth album 'How to Survive a Funeral' that garnered the greatest amount of anticipation (not least after the release was delayed due to Covid).
The record kicks off with the slow-build instrumental track 'Step One', which provides a minute of foreboding menace before the guitars and drums kick into full gear as lead singer Sean Harmanis screams “speak from your heart” to set the tone for the record. 'Falling Ashes' very much keeps this up with some truly devastating drumming from Jordan Mather making for a short yet intense number to get listeners into the full swing of the album. Though the melodic elements are still present, they are very much muted at this early stage in a track that is much more straightforward metalcore than fans will generally be used to. True to form though, it isn’t long before the Aussies throw in something a little unexpected with 'Bones', which brings in a huge groove-laden hook that any djent band would be proud of! It doesn’t stay this way for long though, as the bridge takes things back to a metalcore direction before Harmanis and Booka Nile (keyboards and clean vocals) bring in a mesmerising harmony for the chorus.
The fourth track, 'Drown with Me', is the first single we get to on the album, released in April this year, and is much closer sounding to the material from 'Worlds Apart' than anything we have yet heard. Make Them Suffer so often deal in contrasts, as the album’s title suggests, and this track is a great example of that exploring themes of vulnerability and devotion; with all the positives and negatives that come with them. They also follow the formula of blisteringly heavy verses juxtaposed by melodic choruses where Nile’s vocals come to the fore. This continues into the next of the album’s singles, 'Erase Me', which features another intense drum-heavy verse blending into a much softer chorus. This song features more prominent riffs and breakdowns led by guitarist Nick McLernon which are used to great effect to produce another memorable track.
As we pass the halfway point, the ominously titled 'Soul Decay' comes along, bringing us the final in the series of pre-released singles. This one is a real headbanger right from the off. Unusually, Harmanis’ voice takes the lead for the chorus, which makes for a refreshing change and helps the song take on an altogether darker tone than the more ambivalent themes of the rest of the album. Nevertheless, they hold off on the temptation to go all out heavy on this to allow the effect-laden guitar riffs to come to the fore. This does not last long however, as 'Fake Your Own Death' brings the brutality back with a vengeance through a pummelling three minutes of barking vocals and crushing rhythms, much more reminiscent of their early deathcore sound than anything else we’ve heard.
Next comes the album’s title track, which depicts a conversation between a funeral attendee and the deceased and aptly the distinction between the heavier verses and ethereal choruses is even starker in this song than usual; capturing the full range of emotions one might be feeling in this type of situation. 'The Attendant' is a far more straightforward ballad with Nile taking over most of the vocal work throughout, yet still with some background harsh vocals and heavy guitars as the song builds towards its choruses which give the once again emotional lyrics some much needed heft. Often, if a metal album has a single ballad in, it serves as the album’s closer. Not so here as we get a highly unexpected electronic intro leading us into 'That’s Just Life' which has an odd industrial feel to it, backed up by the pounding of Jaya Jeffrey’s bass. This song is an odd mix of everything Make Them Suffer can do, which is possibly why it was chosen to close the record out despite it feeling a little out of place.
'How to Survive a Funeral' is an album of extremes, where Make Them Suffer’s heavier work is heavier than ever and their softer interludes are more ethereal and atmospheric. There are also much more distinct transitions between one and the other, which on the one hand can produce some dynamic progressions, but on the other can sometimes make their songs feel a little chaotic. The extent to which any individual fan will take to this album depends on how they react to the disparate elements at play. While Make Them Suffer never fully deviate from their signature melodic deathcore formula, there is much more scope for growth and experimentation in this record which is always to be commended; however there are certainly times where they pull it off a lot better than others. Nevertheless, with 'How to Survive a Funeral', the Australian quintet have made an album they can be very proud of and one in which fans will find a lot of things they can enjoy.
'How To Survive A Funeral' is out now via Rise Records. Stream the record here.
Check out the official audio for the album's title track here: