Carnifex – “Dude. Backstreets Back.”

Genres are a curious thing. By their very definition they have an inherent flaw when used to define music, because they are a written attempt to describe something that cannot have a dialectic equivalent. But in the absence of a better means of communicating how something sounds, genres are forced to suffice. Sometimes it works (The Sex Pistols are undeniably punk, for example), but sometimes it doesn’t. Just ask Carnifex.

Carnifex Live


“I don’t understand the deathcore tag, because deathcore to me implies hardcore or metalcore and we don’t have anything similar to them, I don’t think. We’re not influenced by hardcore so I think we’re a lot more death metal than a lot of people who are doing this style,” guitarist Ryan Gudmunds makes a point to explain, in between wolfing down a particularly fattening bacon sandwich. There’s a weariness in his voice, which might be because Carnifex have just spent the better part of a month touring Europe in support of The Black Dahlia Murder. But it could just as easily be down to fighting off the ‘deathcore’ tag, something that has plagued the band since its inception in 2005.

Or maybe he’s just getting tired of keeping the breadcrumbs out of his huge beard. Who knows?

Drummer Shawn Cameron feels just as strongly about the genre debate, pointing out that breakdowns aren’t necessarily limited to ‘core’ music: “Dying Fetus has breakdowns, Cannibal Corpse has breakdowns; Hammer Smashed Face, it’s at the end, check it out! Even Pantera had breakdowns! A breakdown is a part of the song that, to us, is heavier. All the rest of our riffs are very black/death metal influenced. I would call us, and a lot of other bands that are lumped in with us, modern death metal. You can’t write the same shit 30 years later, it’s gotta progress! And this new style is the progression of death metal.”

Fortunately, fans of the band are smart enough to know not to buy into mindless genre-naming, and they’ve been coming out in droves to see Carnifex ahead of the launch of their new album ‘Hell Chose Me’. Recorded at Sharkbite studios in Oakland, California, with Zack Ohren producing, the whole album was recorded in double quick time (“We’d been playing the whole album for 2 months, so when we actually got in the studio it was a very quick process,” explains Shawn), with everyone taking no more than 2 days to record their parts for the whole album.

Although that might sound rushed, Shawn is quick to point out that it was anything but: “The biggest difference (between this record and ‘The Diseased And The Poisoned’) was the amount of time we had to write. With Diseased, we wrote the whole thing in about 4 weeks, but with Hell Chose Me we started writing a little over a year ago. It’s obvious that these songs are much better written.

Carnifex Live


“The Diseased And The Poisoned was all first takes – what you hear is all the pre-production basically. Whatever we wrote at first is what we recorded. This time we wrote songs and changed them till we were happy. The title song for example – that’s probably the fifth version of that song. So we got to really refine everything we did. It turned out much better and we’re all really happy with it.”

The difference in approach is certainly noticeable. Whilst Diseased was crammed full of breakdowns, the songs on Hell Chose Me are given a little more room to breathe. Quizzed about the difference, Shawn sheepishly admits the band fell back on breakdowns to fill holes they couldn’t plug the last time around: “The last album we were very short on time so it’s sad to say that some of those breakdowns went in there just because we didn’t know what else to do! On this album we didn’t put a breakdown in just for its own sake. We went through all the riffs with a fine tooth comb and made sure we all liked it all. To us it’s not just a breakdown. We like to make all of them different, they all need to have a different feel.”

A different feel is also the best way to describe how the new album sounds as a whole. Entombed Monarch and the title track come with the blink-and-you-miss-it blastbeats we’ve all come to expect and relish from Carnifex, The Liars Funeral has the slightest hint of melody, and Heartless even has an acoustic opening. Yes, your read that right – acoustic parts on a Carnifex record.

“I wrote that acoustic piece a long time ago and it got used. It wasn’t really intentional!” chuckles Ryan, and nearly chokes on his sandwich. “This interview is basically going to be me eating a bacon sandwich, isn’t it?” You got it Ryan.

“We knew we had to do something different,” Shawn continues from where we left off. “From Dead In My Arms to Diseased was a bit of a change, but still very close. We needed to progress a little more so we though adding an acoustic intro to something would be something different. You’ve got to do something different and think outside the box and we did it on that song.”

Carnifex Live


Standing out from the rest of the ‘modern death metal’ pack, as they put it, is not easy in a scene where trendsetters are few and far between, whilst tons of new-kids-on-the-metal-block have jumped onto the scene bandwagon, sensing the chance to make a quick buck or earn a deal off the coattails of a style of music that suddenly exploded in popularity a few years ago.

But then again, Carnifex aren’t just any other band. They’ve been through the grind and paid their dues on some truly horrendous tours and gigs (“We had the shortest set contest with Beneath The Massacre! The sound guys were so horrendously awful that we went up, played 3 songs and got off. And they played 4 so we won!”). So the 2011 world tour that’s going to come in support of Hell Chose Me is richly deserved. They’ve even got a message for fans, and especially promoters, in India – “We would love to go there if we can get an Indian contact. We’ll play anywhere that people want to see us.”

And what do they make of the recent news that the Backstreet Boys will be headlining a festival called Rock In India?

“Dude. Backstreets Back.”


About Abhijeet Ahluwalia

Abhijeet Ahluwalia – I’m a freelance journalist who goes back and forth between London and Bombay. A huge metalhead, but I have an eclectic taste, from reggae to punk. Oh, and Manchester United are the greatest team in the world. Follow me on Twitter or drop me a line via Email.

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