San Francisco death metal quartet Succumb are back, following up on their self-titled debut album from way back in 2017. Succumb was a death metal album with doom dirges and showed excellent promise for what was to follow, even with just over half an hour of proper material under their respective belts. The properly titled XXI comes to us as a continuation of what made their debut so easily digestible, providing everything one could want in a small and crushing package: Derek Webster’s guitars and Harry Cantwell’s drums lay the foundation for vocalists Cheri Musrasrik and Kirk Spaseff to trade verbal blows within the confines of each song. We're premiering a new track "Graal" today - listen and then read more about the album below.

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The back-and-forth nature of the vocals on the album helps the band to build a unique flair throughout tracks like “Smoke”. Cheri’s growled approach is as unsettling as a voice reaching out from beyond the void pulling you towards the other side of this mortal coil. Spaseff is a bit more gruff (more so like Corpsegrinder than, say, Karl Willets) but the style seems to fit some of the ...for Victory-esque moments that songs like these provide to the listener, even more evident on each complete playthrough of the album.

The track we're premiering today, “Graal,” pounds through its starting few seconds before giving way to their signature dual vocal style, all the while slowly upping the tempo for the next full scale aural attack. This makes Cantwell’s battery work all that more dynamic, as it helps the band to shift speeds at the drop of a hat before plodding to a halt amidst some truly terrifying atmosphere. Here, Succumb pummels from all directions while moving at a pace a little beyond what old-school death metal generally prefers, but they also excel at a crawl as well, delivering crushing death metal at glacial speeds.

“Aither” is all of two minutes long, but it serves as a transition to even more frightening realms. Riffs fly around like body parts after a brutal assault upon unsuspecting masses; all for your entertainment, of course. It starts to paint a picture of a bloody war, and the following track “Soma” manages to keep some of that high intensity intact before falling back into a slow-motion vignette: a battlefield moving in black and white while drums play to the beat of bodies falling to the ground, eventually coming back into full color to reveal the blood of the slain splattered throughout the scene.

Simply but tastefully executed, each member helps this well-oiled machine to move, but gives credence to the cohesiveness through independence. “Trigrams” serves as the closer to the album and clocks in at just over 7 minutes. The lead guitars get a chance to breathe as they get aired out with a lack of vocals, allowing them to separate from the pack and make themselves felt as both distinct from the whole, yet as an integral part of the whole experience. Fat bass work is also of note, feeling chunky and large absolutely adds to the colossal and crushing effects of this track.

Succumb have crafted a solid death metal album that has all the elements you want from old-school death metal without leaning too heavily on the classic traits of any one band's overall sound, allowing for a fresh take on a generally decomposed version of death metal. XXI is the sound of a band sticking to a familiar formula using what they know and avoiding the dreaded sophomore slump that other bands may fall into when more eyes and ears are trained on them. This four piece is poised to make a big name for themselves in the underground—this album pines for a basement show, torn apart by the people and music that make it all possible.

—Tom Campagna

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XXI releases September 24th, 2021 via The Flenser.