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Bastard Feast – Osculum Infame

Bastard Feast‘s Osculum Infame plays like a sampler of where hardcore/metalcore has been for the past few years. There are buzzy, HM-2-assisted riffs; blackened approximations of Cursed and Wolfbrigade; and lead-adorned stabs at Converge. So, the Portland quintet formerly known as Elitist don’t throw many curves. However, they do have a blazing fastball. If you’re a fan of the genre and have been waiting for a band of their ilk to really go for it, here it is. That said, the key word is ‘fan’.

Opener “Bloated City” is Bastard Feast’s stock and trade. It’s a towering wall of sound built atop a hardcore frame. And Bastard Feast are all about the bricks. They are a modern band in the sense that, like any listener with an internet connection, no style is out of bounds, so they stack as many as they can. “Bloated City” is sludge, death metal, grind, doom, d-beat, and more all at once. Hell, it’s an entire Spotify account in two minutes. It’s also not much of a song, preferring the quick spectacle of everything-now over the application of mortar. The first impression is impressive. Subsequent plays tend to make “Bloated City” topple when you push on it for more.

Yet the sheer tenacity of Bastard Feast’s onslaught — and really, Joshua Greene’s nutso vocal performance — eventually wins out. The 10-minute closer, “Synthetic Messiah”, is the song that puts them over the top because it pulls out all of the stops. Granted, it plays the part as ‘record-closing doomer’, like how other tracks fit into predetermined roles such as the ‘d-beat-y one’ (“Fields of Black Cancer”) or the ‘Kurt Ballou fret pyrotechnics one’ (“Old Father”). After all, Bastard Feast hit familiar beats like a sitcom, albeit one about a nihilistic descent into chaos. (Or one about a self-aware/totally-not-self-aware song-titler: “A Tribute to What We Stole”?) But “Synthetic Messiah” is so unhinged in its restless pursuit of heaviosity, it finally moves the band beyond easy comparisons. This is as close as you’ll get: Today is the Day’s Steve Austin fronting Rune if they were in the mood for funeral doom. That’s slicing the meat pretty thinly. If only the rest of Osculum Infame could be so unrecognizable.

Regardless, let’s not lose sight of Bastard Feast’s strengths. If this is a scene Season of Mist is looking to crack, they’ve done well since Bastard Feast set a new standard for extremity, rendering a lot of what came before as quaint. That’s laudable and, honestly, why they’re getting reviewed. Still, as of right now, the songwriting isn’t quite there, meaning Osculum Infame will suffer the same fate as the peers it has vanquished when the race for superficial, peak-br00ftality inevitably delivers something more monstrous. Osculum Infame‘s advances don’t reroute expectations, they just level-up the requisite elements. True, “Synthetic Messiah” shows there’s a great band here capable of cutting something that can last. But Osculum Infame feels more like a rung on the ladder than a fresh start. If you’re a fan of the sound, you’ll happily take that next step. If you aren’t, it’s tough to make the leap to get back on.

— Ian Chainey

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