When a hardcore band claims influence from System of a Down and Slipknot, it’s hard not to fear for the worst. But the nu-metalcore hybrid of Orthodox works, which explains the band’s fast growth in the underground scene. For its latest LP, the Nashville quartet focuses on sharpening its edges and deepening its impact. The breakdowns are meaner than ever, but an unnerving psychosis seeps through the cracks. Brooding, violent and raw, Let It Take Its Course is forward-thinking hardcore at its most disturbing.
When Orthodox references Slipknot and SOAD, the band is talking about Slipknot’s “Prosthetics” and “Gently,” and SOAD’s “Mind” and “Suit Pee.” Basically, the Iowan lunatics at their most evil and Armenian resisters at their most frenetic.
It’s hard to describe the feeling intro track “Remorse” gives you without sounding hyperbolic. It’s almost like an anti-mosh call. You’re expecting vocalist Adam Easterling to yell something edgy to get crowdkillers swinging, but he’s just muttering like a schizophrenic on his deathbed. The mutterings turn demonic right before the intro riff of “Obscenity” barrels out the gate.
Austin Evans’ meaty guitar tone and Mike White’s primal drumming take full effect right away. Charging most primitive ’90s hardcore riffs with some dashes of Gojira’s imaginative heaviness, this song absolutely slays. Easterling flexes his feral vocal style in this punishing context. Together with the more traditional barks of Evans, he recalls the sounds Ross Robinson got out of singers during the ‘90s. He doesn’t sound like he’s trying to do anything other than vent. He’s processing emotion the only way he can—in this case, over annihilating breakdowns.
It’s mind-boggling how well “Why Are You Here?” and “Look At Me” capture key elements of that SOAD’s ethos. Both tracks strike the perfect balance between primitive anger and compelling oddity. The former nails those janky punk riffs and bludgeoning slow grooves, while the latter sports the kind of guitar licks you’d never think to use. In both cases, Evans and bassist Shiloh Krebs share the load in a way similar to SOAD’s Daron Malakian and Shavo Odadjian. The bass tone can more than hold its own, allowing the guitar to get seriously weird at opportune moments.
“Leave” is really where things take a turn for the unconventional, and where Easterling’s vocal approach comes into its own. He’s essentially talking over riffs, and at times gets softer as the instrumentation gets more barbaric. It’s literally the opposite of metal orthodoxy, but Orthodox still retains hardcore music’s universal nucleus of primal aggression.
Much like Slipknot’s Corey Taylor on a deep cut like “Diluted,” he knows exactly how to time his emotional crescendos. In the case of “Cut,” he can sing like Serj Tankien on the down sections of SOAD’s “Aerials,” but bring those maniacal growls as the tension boils over. The instrumentation proves just as intuitive in its unfiltered anger.
This album’s singles proudly sport stylistic deviation. Both tracks feature a riff unlike anything coming out of current hardcore acts. It’s less of a technical performance and more of an inventive use of available tools. “I Can Show You God” manages to stick a dizzying tremolo riff right after a pretty straightforward metallic punk passages and right before a thuggish breakdown.
It’s absurd how heavy this band can get without having to worship the usual metalcore tropes. There’s so many interesting choices to chew through on the title track—from the synchronized double bass and cymbals at the start to the mutated midpoint breakdown. The results are too stripped-down to call progressive, and Orthodox does wear its influences on its sleeve, but it feels entirely unique.
The intro beat of “Then It Ends” immediately gets you in mosh stance, so you’re already punching holes in your wall once the chugs come slugging in. The band commands your attention at all times, with the deranged vocals drawing you in and the well-timed tempo shifts taking you off your feet. That finally slowed-down fight riff is a restraining order waiting to happen, but the album’s overarching vibe has all the skin-crawling angst that keeps people loving the best nu-metal bands.
Like a combination of SOAD’s “Spiders” and Slipknot’s “Virus of Life,” “The Presence” becomes Orthodox’s emotional capstone. Easterling’s disembodied singing matches perfectly with the atonal guitar strains, while the evolving drum and bass groove guides the band into sporadic pockets of melody. Of course, it ends with a devastating breakdown. The beauty of Let It Take Its Course lies in its ability to suck you in before clubbing you with some good old-fashioned brutality.
“Wrongs” ends the record on a surprisingly vulnerable note. “Terrified of the wrongs I’d do for you/ Because I know there’s no wrong I wouldn’t do,” Easterling sings over minimalist piano chords. It’s almost like he looks back on his demonic diatribes up until this point and seems afraid of his own inner darkness. It’s an appropriate end to an important record for heavy music at large. At the very least, if you’re looking for a band that does nu-metalcore right, look no further.