San Francisco's Succumb is a strange beast. Formerly known as Cloak,the four members have been knocking around the Bay since 2014; they released a single demo (Succumb) in 2015, and formally swapped monikers earlier in 2017, aligning with The Flenser for their full-length debut shortly thereafter. There's nothing odd about that; lots of bands cycle through various names before they find a good fit. It's what they do under said name that's interesting, and in Succumb's case, there's no shortage of strangeness to hold your attention. Their debut is due to drop later this week (May 5, to be exact) and is a challenging listen in the best possible way. Simply put, there's a lot going on here.
At its oozing, poisonous core, Succumb is a death metal band—albeit one with seemingly zero interest in paying lip service to any of the usual tropes we expect from the genre. Sure, there's a whiff of vintage Florida death lingering over some of the more frenzied passages, but there's also a heavy dose of bestial-baiting modern black/death, an affinity for off-kilter technicality, and, in Cheri Musrasrik, a vocalist whose performances range from tortured to terrifying depending on which circle of Hell she's currently occupying. Garden variety growls are largely ignored in favor of a reverb-soaked, high-pitched yowl that may turn off conventional death 'bangers but should intrigue those with a thirst for the extraordinary. Black metal has already made plenty of space for the shouted, windswept vocal, but death metal vocals have barely evolved since their accidental inception; what Musrasrik does here is deliciously subversive (and, more importantly, sounds really fucking cool).
The lyrics also deserve an especial mention, hovering as they do in that intellectual, perverse, poetic, and wholly unsettling sweet spot that Vastum, Pig Destroyer, and Bosse de Nage (whose drummer, Harry Cantwell, also occupies the throne for Succumb) already call home. Succumb tackle the horrors of war, mortification, sex, and coal mining with surreal aplomb and grace. On "The Flood," they make a hanging sound like a dream—"Unfolded from the ends of his spine his body blushing like a rose in bloom"—while "Seedling" paints us a rotting oil painting of an exquisite corpse "alive with maggots in an untrammeled garden." It's disgusting, and beautiful, and compelling in a way that a thousand ham-fisted galleries of suicide could never hope to touch.
Listen below, and snag it from The Flenser on May 5.
Kim Kelly is succumbing to the flood on Twitter.
Photo by Jessica Niles