Despite being around the scene for a bit now, I don’t have any real experience with Wristmeetsrazor, and I’ll be the first to admit a good part of that comes right down to the fact that the word I’d heard most often associated with the band when they first crossed my radar, how ever many years ago it was, was cringe. Listen, I’m not gonna pretend like it’s my favorite moniker ever, and the band does present a very distinct, “Hot Topic-y” image for themselves, which in and of itself is enough to drag the trolls out from behind their keyboards to say all sorts of hateful nonsense. But I’ve also been a fan of countless bands with dumb names through the years. Shit, early 2000s metalcore, an era that I really started to cut my teeth on heavier, more underground acts, was a sea of stupid, spaceless, often overly dramatic band names, and I was a fan of plenty of them. As for my sense of style? It can only best be described as “nonexistent,” and regardless, who the fuck am I (or indeed, anyone) to judge anyone’s appearance? GET OVER MYSELF, ME.

All this is to say that I’m not proud that I’d let my younger self, led by my own insecurities, somehow reach back through and steer me away from Wristmeetrazor before now, just because of some meaningless bullshit spewed by the gatekeepers of the metal world. That was dumb. That said, it has given me a chance to keep my thoughts about Degeneration as pure as possible, so I’ve still avoided listening to their prior work to ensure a completely blank slate. For all I know, maybe their previous releases really were butt. No idea.

What I can tell you? Degeneration goes so fucking hard. It smokes. Fuck me sideways.

So I should probably preface this by saying that this recent late-90s/early-00s metalcore reboot led by the likes of Dying WishYear of the Knife and Jesus Piece is very much right up my ally. We’re talking a period of time where I really started to cut my teeth on heavier, more underground acts. What prefaced that, aside from the usual suspects of MetallicaPantera and Slayer et al, was of course being smack dab in the middle of the Nu-Metal movement where, specifically, I found a real love for the likes of more Industrial-forward acts like Static-XPowerman 5000, White/Rob Zombie and Coal Chamber. My personal tastes have certainly evolved over time, but many of these acts (certainly the specific ones mentioned) I still very much enjoy unironically and unashamedly to this day. I mention all of this because Degeneration is about as perfect an amalgam as you’ll find of these two styles. Yes, I know, Wristmeetsrazor is hardly the first band to combine Metalcore with Nu-Metal elements, but hand on heart, this might be the best version I’ve heard to date, and it only takes the album’s first track to make the point crystal clear. The bouncy, heavy opening riff of “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Dead” lies right at the intersection of Coal Chamber and Machine Head boulevard, before launching into a throwback Metalcore riff that would have fit in just fine on an early Eighteen Visions or Bleeding Through record. It’s a friggin’ ripper of a start, but of course, any good metalcore album need breakdowns, and boy is this one a doozy – starting first with a pure Devildriver refrain/build up they just explodes into the kind of planet-smashing breakdown that put the likes of It Dies Today and Remembering Never on the map. It all puts me in dire need of a pair of, like, camo cargo JNCOs. That’s gotta be a thing, right?

This is just the beginning of as good a 4-song stretch to start an album as I can recall from recent memory. Where “Turn On…” kinda threw everything in WMR‘s arsenal at you in a neat little sub-3 minute package, “Static Reckoning” goes for straight Metalcore glory, hitting first with a melodic, thrashy riff straight from the classic As I Lay Dying playbook, and culling the same vibes by not shying away from a big, dual vocal chorus that’ll stick on first listen. The bow on top is, of course, another crushing breakdown that will properly rattle your speakers and get any crowd moving in short order. “Trepanation” follows with another track that really lays all the cards on the table, tapping even further into their Industrial/Nu vibes with a track that could well just be a love letter to Dez Fafara’s (Devildriver, Coal Chamber) entire career, hitting with some immense grooves and synth-led atmospherics while still maintaining a distinctly Metalcore base. I think it’d be fair to say this feels as authentic and true to the band’s style and influence as and WMR track to date, and allows the band to stretch out and get even more comfortable with their unique identity. That said, the seesaw goes back toward more straight-Metalcore with “Xeroxed Reflection” which, for this reviewer, is the album’s finest offering – again leaning shamelessly into huge, earworm choruses, some really catchy riffing, and perhaps the band’s most earth-quaking breakdown yet, the kind that could re-start the rotation of a stalled planet, only to break it completely apart with subsonic destruction. It’s an absolute unit of a track.

From here, the back-and-forth interplay between Industrial experimentation and straight-up metalcore brutality continues. “DogdayGod” sees the band tapping into their innermost Cybergoth, creating a striking (and I’m sure divisive) middle ground where Nine Inch Nails and Godflesh shake hands with Sick of it All. Personally, I’m really digging it – but if it’s not to your taste it’s only here for about two and a half minutes before we’re right back into Metalcore again with “Love Thy Enmity” and quick-hitter “Culled and Forgotten,” both of which opt for no-nonsense brutality to make get their point clearly across. What’s funny is, the titles alone are pretty good indicators of what to expect stylistically from each track. You may not be surprised to find tracks like “Synthetic-51n” and “Negative Fix” see the band leaning more into their Industrial/Nu-Metal leanings (though make no mistake, the latter gets plenty heavy, including a monster breakdown), where “No Ceremony,” and “The Vanity Procession” stay more straightforward on the Metalcore path. I love everything Degeneration is putting out there, but there’s definitely still room for the band to further integrate and streamline these ideas into a more cohesive, fully-integrated idea. I’d lie if I said it doesn’t make the album play a bit more predictably than it has to, but it’s also delivered with such conviction and ability that it’s easy to overlook. That said, perhaps no track exemplifies the still-present disconnect than closer “Greatest Love Offering in the History of the World,” the first half of which prominently showcases their Metalcore roots, before coming to an abrupt halt mid-build-up, going to silence for about 10 seconds, then returning with an altogether new, VERY Goth-forward track that, quite honestly should have just been an entirely separate track. I mean, I’m not even talking Goth-y Nu Metal here, I’m talking the likes of Moonspell or Sentenced, certainly a little Type O in there for good measure. And it sounds really fucking good! Really well pulled off, just… where the hell did it come from?! And why present it… like this? I want this band to embrace all their influences and do what they want to do as artists, I just hope they keep working towards making it a more cohesive, fully-articulated sound. Always room for improvement, right?

So sure, there’s still areas of growth left for Wristmeetsrazor, but as a whole, Degeneration is still just a goddamn blast of a listen that I would not hesitate for one second to recommend to anyone and everyone, and really look forward to watching this band evolve and become more and more comfortable with who they are as artists. Don’t let yourself get swept up by preconceptions and bullshit like I once did with this band – just get your hands on Degeneration and enjoy a fine example of metal ingenuity and progress. I know for sure I’ll still be thinking about this one by year’s end.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
April 17th, 2024


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