Have you ever wondered what you might get if you crossed one of the metal scene’s most chaotic bands with eight of the heavy scene’s best vocalists? If, like me, that’s not a thought that’s ever crossed your mind, it’s time to strap yourself in, because Cursed Earth have a surprise for you.
Following the band’s separation from previous vocalist Jazmine Luders, and with their last release 2017’s Cycles of Grief now feeling like a distant memory, the Perth natives are set to remind everyone just why they’re regarded as one of Australia’s premiere heavy acts. Releasing on May 31st, the band’s new mixtape The Deathbed Sessions is set to do just that and I’m not sure if we’re all ready for it.
The Deathbed Sessions is seven distinctly different tracks with different vocalists on each track. Cursed Earth have prepared a star-studded lineup, with every different vocalist adding their own individual flavour to their track. Consequently, this makes The Deathbed Sessions an inconsistent and frantic chaos of sound, and that’s what’s so damn good about it.
The release, masterminded by guitarist Keiran Molloy, gathers an eclectic bunch of vocalists. With three singles already revealed, fans have seen Matt Honeycutt of Kublai Khan dominate “Fear”, The Amity Affliction’s Joel Birch go back to his roots on “Torch”, and Larissa Stupar from Venom Prison hit her feature on “Tyranny Forever” for six, but there is so much more to come.
Rounding off The Deathbed Sessions, Justice For The Damned’s Nick Adams features on the second track “Rock Bottom”, while Booka Nile and Sean Harmanis of Make Them Suffer appear together on “Deathbed”, along with Jack McDonald of Cast Down on “Operation”, and Mark Poida of Aversions Crown on “Burn”. It’s a stellar lineup, and the foundation of what is a style-hopping and dynamic release from Cursed Earth.
Every song seems to take on the persona of its vocalist, which makes for some really interesting combinations. “Fear” has the beatdown mood that often defines Kublai Khan songs, while “Rock Bottom” sits in some middle ground between Justice For the Damned and Cursed Earth. It feels almost like Molloy had certain vocalists in mind when writing some of these songs because for the most part, every feature feels like a seamless transition.
One of the mixtape’s most interesting tracks, and certainly the one that caught my eye when I saw the tracklisting was “Torch” with Joel Birch at the forefront. Above all else, it almost feels nostalgic to see Birch spitting vicious gutturals over a ridiculously heavy song, and arguably the angriest song on The Deathbed Sessions. Focusing thematically on “Pigs and Catholics” as Molloy put it, it’s great to see that Birch has still got it.
Other songs, like “Tyranny Forever”, take on similarly political meanings with this song in particular honing in on British colonisation in Western Australia and its devastating effects on the Aboriginal population. At its core, The Deathbed Sessions is very angry, and similarly every song carries the mood throughout regardless of the greater lyrical focus. Though anger is one of the only consistencies in the release, it’s intriguing to note that every track seems to approach it from a different and completely individual angle.
Interestingly, my personal preference of favourites from The Deathbed Sessions seems to loosely follow my own perception of each vocalist. As an avid Kublai Khan sweater, I felt naturally drawn to “Fear”. With the structure and mood seemingly mirroring that of any other song Honeycutt fronted, I still find it hard to look past as a personal favourite. And inversely, I didn’t find myself as engaged with “Deathbed” (despite it being an enjoyable listen) because I’ve never really been a Make Them Suffer fan. On the plus side, if fan’s experiences with the release are anything like my own, then The Deathbed Sessions makes for a completely individual experience for every different listener.
And while certain songs feel perfectly conceived, on the rare occasion the songs can feel like Cycles of Grief B-Sides, with a shiny coat of paint slapped over the top in the form of a new vocalist. Yet in the band’s defence, The Deathbed Sessions isn’t driven towards establishing a new sense of identity for the band. If anything it’s destined to achieve the complete opposite. It’s a taste test above all else, just like a mixtape should be; experimenting with different styles and sounds to see what works the best.
While carrying an inconsistent sound as a consequence of featuring eight different vocalists, there’s undeniably a lot in The Deathbed Sessions for heavy music fans to enjoy. From breakdowns and riffs, to chunky bass chugs, and an overwhelmingly chaotic atmosphere, it really does have just about everything. It’s a bold and enterprising listen and one that, by virtue of its format and structure, doesn’t get boring or repetitive.
It strikes an almost perfect balance between youth and experience, combining up and coming vocalists like Jack McDonald with those who have undeniably been around the block like Joel Birch.
To take the mixtape’s title verbatim, The Deathbed Sessions feels like a collection of songs that were written as the band were quite literally on their deathbed. Like a group that has come back from the brink of extinction, Cursed Earth sound recharged and ready to go, with a vicious sense of aggravation pulsing through the band’s veins.
At times certain songs can sound like a reskin of what we heard on Cycles of Grief, yet it really doesn’t feel all that problematic.
It’s aggressive, frantic and chaotic- everything that we’ve come to know and love from Cursed Earth. With a perfect blend of up and coming vocalists and experience, there’s something in The Deathbed Sessions for everyone.