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Album Review: Sectioned - 'Annihilated'

30 April 2018 | 3:29 pm | Alex Sievers
Originally Appeared In

This is the very definiton of chaos.

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On their overwhelmingly chaotic debut LP, Sectioned pulls together a dissonant and psychotic mixture of intensive hardcore, savage mathcore, tech-metal, harsh noise and even some experimental flashes to make for one of the most insane yet crucial heavy albums of 2018.

Now, if you've never heard of Sectioned before, then let me lay some context down for ya.

The bat-shit nature of 'Annihilated’ and it's crazed 13 tracks were captured and recorded by guitarist/bandleader Pedram Valiani, who also mixed this absolutely wild full-length as well. Mastered by Brad Boatright over at Audiosiege, the Scottish outfit's debut album marks their first release in four years, the first since the band's 2014's split with noise-rock purveyors, Shudder. This is also their latest effort featuring newish lyricist/vocalist/talented tattoo artistJamie Christ, who fits this new record's decrepit theme of inner-conflict and its monstrous sonics perfectly; nailing his role with utterly vicious screaming and some really pained vocal deliveries. (For instance, that voice-breaking scream of "every day is all the same" on 'Toothgrinder' is some really confronting shit).

While the band's former vocalist Murray Nicol was a fine enough frontman for past releases like 2012's ‘Monotone’ and 2013's ‘Outlier’ EP, he wouldn’t quite fit in as well now with Sectioned becoming even heavier and more complex over the years. Plus, Nicol kinda sounded like what I’d imagine Patrick from Spongebob Squarepants would sound like if he fronted a hardcore band. So there's that too...

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Anywho! Musically speaking, these five Edinburgh madmen are born and bred from the very best that hardcore, mathcore and extreme music has had to offer the world over the past two or so decades; taking controlled mayhem and skirting over multiple heavy genres to create something spectacular.

Ergo, Sectioned brandishes the same blood-pumping rawness and face-melting aggressiveness that Converge harness so beautifully well. They've struck hard upon that angular, older metalcore sound that made bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan such integral listening. They seemingly follow a similar schizophrenic, wall-of-sound approach to songwriting that experimental-hardcore bands like The Armed adhere to (just with fewer synths, less clean singing and rarer melodic moments). They’ve got the abrasive quality, sheer heaviness and deformed riffs of groups like Meshuggah all squared up, but they execute them all at a much faster rate. And you can bet that this U.K. five-piece have a solid knack for discordance, skin-crawling feedback and the violent unpredictability that The Chariot once effectively utilised so damn well.

Though perhaps most importantly, this band also have the densely-packed sound, rhythmic mind-fuckery, hectic pinches, whammy squeals and the jagged guitars of The Tony Danza Tap Dance Extravaganza and fellow Scotsmen, the mighty Frontierer, all down pat. The latter being a band that these guys will no doubt receive the strongest comparisons to due to sharing the same geographical location, a very similar overall sound and the fact that guitarist Pedram Valiani is the mastermind behind both Frontierer and Sectioned. (Hey, the more you know).

[caption id="attachment_1102137" align="aligncenter" width="760"] Sectioned, 2018. You came to the wrong neighbourhood, motherfucker. [/caption]

Sectioned's music isn't anything that new as far as hardcore, mathcore or extreme music goes these days; just by the sheer admission of the band's mentioned above that share their genre space and the other acts that seemingly influence and inspire Sectioned's music. However, the band have nonetheless crafted something highly impressive and inarguably captivating with their wicked full-length; an album that pushes itself to the very brink and then has the actual balls to say, "nah, that's just not far enough for me, lads".

Relentless tempos surge throughout, off-kilter time signatures pave the way to madness, filthy guitar riffs bend and scream out in pain, pedal-affected guitar runs boil quickly like explosives set to detonate, head-caving low-end broods underneath, and blistering, careening drums dominate the record. All in a display of musical chaos that I can only describe as instrument abuse. In fact, most of the time, the various vocal and instrumental lines of these 13 compositions feel like they're all trying to constantly out-run one another or out-do each other in terms of heaviness and destructive power. And the result is one of crippling tension that underpins the entire record. Yet that's what makes the overly hostile 'Annihilated’ brilliant: Sectioned's proficiency for chest-crushing chaos and unrelenting brutality that's thoroughly detailed and meticulously planned.

Though, truth be told, it would have been too much to create a record compiled of only those such confronting elements. Thankfully, this off-the-wall LP comes with a few sheltering respites from the harrowing storm raging on outside. Well-placed melodious moments - like the eerier guitars that hang in the air during the second half of 'Synchronicity', the softer melodic guitar section that takes 'Victorious, Neverending' on home, and the solemn piano outro that winds down the final two minutes of 'Through The Trees' - all offer real breathing room. They also provide what I feel are some sorely required sense of dynamics; which is my only real criticism against 'Annihilated'.

So too does Sectioned's experimental flairs throughout these 13 tracks. Such as the closing drum 'n' bass section on 'Starved Lives'; the chirping guitar feedback that draws 'Beautiful Struggle' to a close; or the messy mash-up of amp feedback, pained and hard to make out screams, glitchy IDM and electronic percussion that wraps up 'Portrait'. These moments further help to prevent anymore listening fatigue from settling in, because while I've fallen head over heels with this record, it can sometimes border on being just a little too much.

Amidst my earlier aptly drawn parallels between those bands that have more than likely helped shape and cultivate the sonic carnage that Sectioned wield on 'Annihilated’, there's a real method to their inhuman madness. It's how each of these songs ebb and flow together exceptionally well, moving around a core idea - whether a riff, a certain groove, the song's meter, or a particular phrase - to create something engaging, despite the many disparate moving parts of the band's indeed violent-as-fuck music.

After all, it's easy to thrash and bash your instruments around as loud and as fast as one can, but I think it's much more difficult to do that and still create something that works in tandem to create a true cohesive force. And that's what Sectioned accomplish so fucking well with a debut full-length void of filler.

To quote my peer KYS writer, Owen Morawitz, songs like the head-bobbing 'Life's True Beauty', the down-tuned 'Eigengrau', closer 'Through The Trees' and the album's ludicrous title track feel and sound like a fucking sledgehammer to the temple. And he ain't wrong about that feeling of blunt force trauma. Other killer tracks such as the war-like 'Betrayer', 'Release', the downtrodden 'Bête Noire' and the explosive opening section of 'Portrait' achieve similar results but do so via their no-holds-barred usage of breakneck speeds, quick-firing dissonant guitars, raving screams, and surgical instrumental precision that cuts all the way down to the bone.

'Annihilated' is like the first time you heard ‘Jane Doe’ and were left completely bewildered. 'Annihilated' is like how you had to lift your jaw off the floor after hearing ‘Orange Mathematics’. 'Annihilated' is like the first time you put on ‘Calculating Infinity’ and had to listen to it multiple times just to work out what the actual fuck was happening. 'Annihilated' is like the first time you discovered The Tony Danza Tap Dance Extravaganza and had your mind blown. 'Annihilated' is, simply put, fantastic: a debut LP that places Sectioned right on the extreme music map for all to see.

1. Annihilated

2. Beautiful Struggle

3. Starved Lives

4. Synchronicity

5. Betrayer

6. Toothgrinder

7. Eigengrau

8. Bête Noire

9. Victorious, Neverending

10. Release

11. Portrait

12. Life's True Beauty

13. Through The Trees

'Annihilated' is out now, stream it below if you know what's good for you. Also, just to make this record even cooler, it features additional performances from The Armed's Tony Wolski (‘Portrait’), and drummer Niall MacRae from uplifting Glasgow instrumental progressive rock outfit, Vasa (‘Toothgrinder’). Nice!