Release Date: 1st October 2021
Label: SharpTone Records
FFO: Bleeding Through, Unearth, Killswitch Engage
Like early 2000s metalcore? Portland’s Dying Wish sure do, bringing their noisy metallic hardcore straight from the era of Unearth, Bleeding Through and early Killswitch Engage with their debut album Fragments Of A Bitter Memory. Their only concession to modernity is an updated production so the album itself only sounds dated in its musical influences; otherwise, its edges are razor-sharp with barbed lyricism and huge breakdowns.
Opener ‘Cowards Feed, Cowards Bleed’ doesn’t mess around; in under two minutes, it snarls and bludgeons its way through ears and necks alike. Visceral lines like “your demons don’t lie” and “I only want to feed you pain” lay bare the bluntness that’s core to both their lyrics and sound. ‘Hallowed By Affliction’ and ‘Innate Thirst’ complete the opening trifecta, as towering hardcore riffs give way to breakdown after breakdown all accompanied by vocalist Emma Boster’s vitriolic bark.
Certainly, Dying Wish know their way around a breakdown; from ‘Hallowed By Affliction’ ending with one and ‘Innate Thirst’ opening with another, but that’s not the only string to their bow. There’s flourishes of Gothenburg melodeath in some of the riffwork such as the closing moments of ‘Innate Thirst’ and the opening to ‘Cold Hearts In Bloom’; they break up the more hardcore-inflected moments of their sound nicely, flourishes of melody within the bleakness.
While Boster certainly has a formidable roar, she also makes excellent use of melody; midway through ‘Severing The Senses’ a soaring chorus takes hold though it’s short-lived. Similarly, the title track takes flight at around the midway mark and there’s tradeoffs between harsh and sung vocals to close out the song. Though they’re used relatively infrequently, they’re used to great effect and nowhere better than in closing song ‘Drowning In The SIlent Black’ whose chorus is pure Killswitch in the best way; the slightly slower pace and Gothenburg-esque guitar work only further strengthening both the song and the comparison.
Dying Wish may have a sound that’s well-trodden, but their concerns are all too current; ‘Severing The Senses’ stands in solidarity with survivors of abuse (“Young and voiceless / The perfect prey for a predator in disguise”) while the title track is a frank account of Boster’s own troubled upbringing. Not only that but they’re also heavily involved in current concerns, with ‘Blood Laced Misery’ being a damning indictment of colonialism and the US’ treatment of immigrants through ICE. They’re also active in their own scene; ‘Enemies In Red’ sees Boster and Knocked Loose’s vocalist Bryan Garris trading lyrical barbs throughout. It’s an easy fit, his vitriolic bark slotting in seamlessly..
The guitar work throughout Fragments Of A Bitter Memory is heavily inspired by the Gothenburg melodeath sound as well as beatdown hardcore; guitarists Sam Reynolds and Pedro Carrillo frequently play off each other, such as the aforementioned ‘Enemies In Red’ where additional guitar lines complement the main riff. The drumming is equally hard-hitting but never flashy. Instead, drummer Jeff Yambra picks his moments to accent and where to pull back. The fills in the opening of ‘Cold Hearts In Bloom’ drive the guitars forward but aren’t the focal point themselves, while in the verses he’s more restrained in his patterns but no less frenetic in speed.
Throughout the album it’s clear that this is a band with a lot to say – backed up by their activism in and outside of the band, including raising money for bail funds for protestors and their own frank lyrics. Not only that, but the band back it up with some serious chops and riff work. There’s flourishes of melody amongst the brutality and their breakdowns hit like freight trains while their lyrics are razor-sharp and incisive. There’s some rough edges but Dying Wish’s debut is as emphatic a statement as they come. This band means business, and you’d better not get in their way.
Recommend tracks: Cold Hearts In Bloom, Until Mourning Comes, Enemies In Red, Drowning In The Silent Black