Review: ‘District of Dystopia’ by Jucifer

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Jucifer’s latest release is exactly what you’d expect from this band – no-frills sludge metal. And when I say no frills, here’s what you get in the album.

  • Vocalist (x1)
  • Drum kit (x1)
  • Extremely distorted and downtuned guitar (x1)
  • Songs (x9)

No second guitar, no bass guitar, no samples and no loops. With only two members, Jucifer can’t really make their music more intricate and elaborate without including aforementioned extras. However, they don’t need to. Jucifer formed in 1993 in Georgia state with two members, Gazelle Amber Valentine on guitar/vocals and her partner Edgar Livengood on drums. Since 2001, the duo have had no permanent address as they have taken to the nomadic lifestyle of driving around the country in their RV and constantly playing shows. Another well-known aspect of Jucifer is the extreme volume of their live shows. This is done using the band’s infamous wall of speakers.

With this in mind, the nature of Jucifer’s music makes a lot of sense. Therefore, it is to be expected that their music isn’t exactly pleasing to the ear. The album begins with ‘Non Gratum Anus Rodentum’ which features a heavy, almost groovy riff that then merges into something much slower before entering chaotic grindcoresque territory. The listener is bombarded with blast beats, atonal guitar riffs and harsh growling vocals from Valentine. Which she does a very good job with her vocals in the first track, she then takes a slightly annoying turn with ‘It Can’t Be Helped’. Her attempts at high pitched vocals sound like Barney Greenway from Napalm Death attempting his own high pitched screams while suffering from a throat infection. Of course, this vocal harshness complements the guitar and drums but after a while it does get a bit too much.

On the track ‘Narcissist’ Valentine returns to her deeper growls which she seems much better at. The guitar and drums also take the speed down several notches to create an incredibly sludgy song that would have audiences slowly headbanging in unison. This song then ends with a faster riff and an example of Valentine using higher pitched vocals that actually sound much better than those on the previous track. The higher pitched vocals continue on ‘Red Summer’ and almost seem appropriate for a black metal song. ‘Ratified’ begins at a much faster pace and moves between fast riffs and mid-paced headbangable grooves. The next track ‘Decapitating The Regime’ is by far the most melodic on the album, moving back and forth between two distinctive melodies for the first half of the song and entering another doomy riff for the second half.

The annoying vocals of ‘It Can’t Be Helped’ return on ‘Warstartdemo’ except on this track, they’re accompanied by a very stop-start, atonal guitar riff and complimenting drum beat that is even more displeasing. The sporadic and atonal guitar riffs continue on ‘Justice’, with the intro riff sounding like a fly buzzing around my ear. The album comes to a very sludgy conclusion with ‘The Object Of Power’ which at 4 minutes and 37 seconds is by far the longest track on the album. Granted, most of it is taken up by the same rolling hypnotic riff.

As you could probably tell, I spent a lot of the my time listening to this album critiquing Valentine’s vocals. Due to the very stripped-down nature of their music, the vocals have a higher portion of the total sound than they usually do in other bands. Despite my criticism, Valentine mostly does do a good job as a vocalist. Another reason for her voice’s prominence is because the music itself seems to only have three modes on this album. These are fast and chaotic grindcore, mid-tempo atonal grooves and slow sludgy riffs. Most songs on the album contain all three at some point and it’s often hard to distinguish different riffs within each mode. However, when Jucifer plays these songs live, that would hardly matter. What does matter is that the music is harsh and heavy enough to be played at Jucifer’s constant series of live shows. Is this the sort of album you’d listen to while sitting at home doing chores? Unless you’re a hardcore grindcore/sludge metal fan, probably not. Is this the kind of album said fans would like to listen to live while making their tinnitus even worse? Yes. Absolutely.

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