Succumb, “XXI”
By Ben Salmon · September 28, 2021
San Francisco, California
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San Francisco, California
✓ following
Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD), T-Shirt/Apparel, Vinyl LP

In 2017, Succumb bubbled up from the Bay Area’s fertile punk/metal scene wielding a particularly potent nasty streak. The quartet’s self-titled debut album, released by gloomy tastemaking label The Flenser, thrashes around for a harrowing half-hour, zigzagging from blast beats and barbarous death metal to squalid hardcore and stomach-churning noise. (Occasionally, they even drop into a riffy groove that recalls Bleach-era Nirvana.) The thread that holds it all together is vocalist Cheri Musrasrik, whose tortured grunts, howls, and growls impart intense pain and desperation despite sounding like they were recorded in a faraway concrete tomb.

On XXI—their follow-up full-length—Succumb dials the chaos up a couple notches and brings Musrasrik’s voice to the forefront. The result is an album that feels sharper, tighter, and more unsettling. Gone are song titles made up of common English words; in their place are (mostly) references to primordial gods, mythological spirits, and cosmological symbolism, which only enhance Succumb’s disorienting din. The band goes full-on grindcore on the 85-second opening track “Lilim,” before scaling back the tempo (slightly) and splattering the walls of “Maenad” with spastic guitars and earth-moving low end. On “Smoke,” they juxtapose relentless dissonance and chest-caving riffs, while “Graal”—a highlight of the album that soars and seethes with equal aplomb—showcases Succumb’s impressive command of dynamics. And if all that stimulation isn’t enough, Musrasrik is now right in the listener’s ear, snarling and screaming as if a demon is trying to force its way out of her body. She is a charismatic and terrifying force of a front person, backed by a band that is clearly capable of keeping up with her. Succumb’s nasty streak is indeed strong, but it’s a focused, ambitious brand of nasty that makes them one of the most interesting heavy bands to come along in recent years.

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