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Review: Make Them Suffer – Old Souls

Make-Them-Suffer-Old-Souls-cover

Before we dig too deep, I’m going to lay all my cards on the table. Prior to June of this year, I knew the following things about Australian six-piece Make Them Suffer; they were a band from Australia, they made music, that music may or may not be deathcore-ish , they made relatively heavy use of orchestral/symphonic elements, and 2012 release Neverbloom was loved by seemingly everyone who is not me.

I didn’t miss it. I was completely aware of it. I was completely aware of its reception.

I just ignored it.

This review is not about Neverbloom, but I would be remiss if I did not mention these things. I had no particular interest in Make Them Suffer, therefore, my first listen to 2015 release Old Souls was almost completely without context. Perhaps it was reputation. It could have been the 90 second previews. I had a solid week delivering pizzas and had a little more cash flow than I was expecting, so maybe that’s why I took the chance.

I bought Old Souls on a whim.

It is one thing to have expectations, and have those expectations met, or even exceeded. It is an entirely separate thing to be pleasantly surprised by a band you have no real feelings for, or expectations of.

It is also an entirely separate thing to be punched in the fucking throat by a release from a band that was, quite frankly, doing just fine without my ignorant ass.

Old Souls is beautiful. Absolutely devastating, but also hauntingly beautiful. Together, it is one of the most emotional, raw albums released this year. It is not necessarily the “heaviest.” It is not “brutal.” Yet, this album managed to exhaust me and break me in ways that the heaviest releases this year could not.

The intro feature, “Foreword,” is, in retrospect, a perfect capsule of this album. The keys, played by Louisa Barton, that open are enchanting, the string section that comes in after is a perfect complement that helps bring the entire thing to an inspiring crescendo, right as the floor falls out from underneath, and vocalist Sean Harmanis’ distant, almost pained cry “Old friend, let’s start again,” rings out. This was a band I ignored, and it took about half of a 1:55 ‘introlude’ to hook me.

The transition into “Requiem” is gorgeous. The machine gun drums paired with the orchestral backdrop are a synesthetic combination that manages to make the song feel enormous. Consequently, the breakdowns present at various points in this song could level cities. They are not particularly complex breakdowns, but they crush, and the whole song serves to stir listener on every level.

“Fake” follows, and does not disappoint. It is a definite change of pace, almost a total change in style, yet the contrast feels needed. “Requiem” feels like a massive, composed symphony. “Fake,” simply bounces. The song is an entirely different “heavy” from the one before it. It is quite punchy, and very angry.

“Let Me In” is a standout. There may not be a song on this album with more unfiltered emotion than this one. The keys are soft and haunting. The backing vocals are excellent. The lyrical content is gut-wrenching, in the best way possible. Hearing Harmanis’ desperate, repetitious shrieks of “Let me, let me, let me, why won’t you let me in!” and “Because I tried, and I tried, and I tried, and I tried!” to Annie, whomever that may be, is a treat. It is a privilege to be given such a clear glimpse into a desperate human soul, and if you can come out the other side of this song without tears in your eyes, you’re more stoic than I could be.

“Threads” is a song that showcases the keyboard, and the chorus is elegantly done. The entire track sounds uplifting and is a nice choice to have follow the 4 song sequence preceding it. The long interlude “Through the Looking Glass” is a quirky, eerie piece that goes from pretty keys to an understated, deliberate beat on the drums, that leads brilliantly into “Blood Moon,” the djentiest piece on the record. The track punches hard, with really fun breakdowns at various points, and also lightens up as Louisa’s backing vocals come in. The interplay between the screams and the backing vocals is one of the best features of the whole album, but particularly in this song.

“Scraping the Barrel” follows, and is my personal favorite on the album. The song starts brilliantly with strings and keys leading into the line “This is not a means to an ending, just a broken and twisted path/ Foreboding the droning tasks, that face the shell of a shattered man!” which serves as the cue for crunching guitars and bass to enter. The entire song is energizing, and the breakdown about 2/3 into the song featuring a brilliant section on the keys is a highlight of the album.

“Marionette” features some enjoyable, breakneck riffing and nice backing vocals and leads into what I’d actually been secretly hoping for since I heard her voice. “Timeless” is a song where Louisa’s vocals come to the fore. It is stunning. Her soft voice, the equally soft guitar, the understated keys, and well placed backing screams all combine into a gorgeous change of place very few metal bands embrace (the last section done this well in my opinion was Fallujah’s “Alone With You.”) It is a well-placed, borderline baby-maker of a track, functioning as an emotional transition into the album-concluding title track. “Old Souls” has a nice leading riff, an enjoyably weird solo, and some djent groove. It is a fine capstone on an emotional ride.

I did not approach Old Souls with rose-colored glasses, but I cannot possibly endorse this album with more conviction. I’ve seen a fair amount of criticism leveled at this release, and I see most of it in the vein of “This is a major change in sound.” I cannot speak against that criticism. I was under the impression Make Them Suffer were a deathcore leaning band, but this clearly more of a metalcore release. If that is enough of a betrayal, than I guess I understand the frustration.

That being said, this release is well composed, clearly thought out and methodically crafted, and manages to sound unique. I don’t have my metal roots in the symphonic side of the forest, but I really enjoy every aspect of this album. The most surprising element was the sheer emotional ferocity. The screams are tortured, but even the softer parts manage to be stirring. It is an album that manages to exhaust, and also comfort the listener. It is an undeniably beautiful, and I will have Old Souls in rotation for a while, and I suggest you do the same.

*I’m actually really interested in what people have to say about this release. Leave your rebuttals/agreements in the comment section or on the PSAB Facebok page, or send your thoughts to me on Twitter @PhilPSAB

You can purchase Old Souls via iTunes and/or MerchNOW.

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  • Sam Wilcock on

    I could not agree with this review more, even down to the personal favourite on the album, scrapping the barrel has everything! If I were to recommend one song to listen to by MTS it would be this one.

    I, unlike the good author of this review, loved the first album! The first time I heard the scream on maelstrom I nearly crashed my car in some fit of excitement. I like all types of heavy music and a lot of softer music too so I’ve never understood the whole hate between exclusive ‘metalcore’ & ‘deathcore’ fans – I don’t get it – can’t you just enjoy a piece of art in which Old Souls truly is.

    I can’t wait to see them supporting thy art is mirder here in the UK. Can they cut it live? I hope so


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