Review: “Fleshless King” by Shxttered

A one man multi instrumentalist project which sees Christian Davila joined by vocalist Caleb McLaren Foster and a couple of special guests, Shxttered hail from Southern Florida and claim to have a sound that lives in the space between Deathcore and Slam. So that would be… Post-Deathcore then?

This full debut album, a 9 track affair, is the follow up to 2018’s pair of EPs in debut “Tales of Horror” and “El Southside” which introduced the band and actually has a big Hardcore influence to it. Chanting “Cleanse” over a slow and atmospheric riff of a dark and brooding nature “Purge” effectively has a 38 second introduction to the album build onto the first song. The intro riff is heard underneath the opening verse which does feature some slammingly brutal vocals over blast beats and Black Metal guitars but for the bulk of the track there is a clear Slipknot esq atmospheric and alongside it’s aggression. “Gnashing of Teeth sees the albums first guest appearance with former Signs of the Swarm and current Lorna Shore vocalist CJ McCreery lending his throat to a punishingly heavy track that steps up the level of brutality from the opening tune like a 6ft 6 basketball player standing next to a dwarf. For the most part the tune is a rhythmic battering with with plenty of slow pause break riffs that add a sense of tension and Shxttered essentially prove that they have what it takes if they can get a band fleshed out, to hit the road. Foster’s opening lines to “Grave Planet” feature title of the album as he screams “Rejoice for I am the Fleshless King” over a battering ram of blast beats and Black Metal guitars. The drop into a chugging Deathcore groove is flawlessly seamless, as are the Hardcore esq vocals of the verse before they step back up into the Deathcore territory, giving an indication of the sheer range of Foster’s vocal capabilities. Another shift for a final Downtempo crushing breakdown accompanied by some Slam vocals brings it home and perhaps indicates that Shxttered have a style that isn’t for purists.

Demonstrating the skill of the likes of Cameron McBride of Methwitch fame, Christian Davila shows of plenty of skills throughout “Fleshless King”. He could easily take up guitars, bass or drums in any Metal band live and it would be interesting to see what he picked given the choice. The kit work on this album pretty damn solid and the introduction of “Soul Harvest” would grace most albums. What’s interesting about this album is for all the heavier elements there are some parts that would be just as at home on less heavy bands material which makes for a varied and fun listen. This one again shifts the gears like shifting sands with a closing Downtempo breakdown leading into the fast start of “Intermission // Intermission”. A groove laiden instrumental, it’s a 79 second burst of guitar that develops a Pantera riff into Shxttered’s style by starting out fast, moving through the grove and then closing in Downtempo Deathcore wrecking ball fashion. It acts as a palette cleanser for the bludgeoning rhythms of the breakneck start to “Toll the Dead”. Adding in some raindrop effects, Foster calls forth Demons alongside the sound of a bell toll as he calls for souls to be dragged from bodies that fall into an eternal sleep in easily the heaviest track on the album. It’s the apocalypse but not as you know it. The riffs are pretty much instant circle pit formations with their climbing grooves in the opening battering. The slower mid section will see some spin kicks before it all goes off again.

Starting the last trio of tunes with “The Cycle”, a slower building start gives a momentary breather before Foster opens his mouth and unleashes some hellishly caustic unclean vocals. His pitch control is highly impressive, as is the range he’s able to achieve, often giving the impression that 3 or 4 different vocalists are appearing on a tune rather than just the one. The music behind those vocals isn’t necessarily as heavy as it could be, instead taking a less is more approach at times. The sludge metal closing riff of this one being a shining example. Returning to the Dark Metal opening of the first track for its opening guitar work, “Transcendence” kicks in with a thumping slower groove before again stepping up into that faster pummelling Black Metal tinged Deathcore. Foster’s vocals give the impression of someone slowing embracing insanity while each bass drum hit pounds like a punch in the face. Kenny Williams from Betrayer would be proud of this kit work on one of his Downtempo groove tracks. Billed as a bonus track, “Dark World” sees the Shxttered duo joined by Bodysnatcher drummer Chris Whited for a tune about the World rotting out and being embraced by darkness. It features a surprisingly refreshing hardcore verse before a set of brutal breakdowns and some Slam vocals that belong in a lock up. It’s heavy, it’s fun and it’s got groove. It’s also a solid immovable object that demands some attention!  [7.5/10]

Track listing

  1. Purge
  2. Gnashing of Teeth ft. CJ McCreery of Lorna Shore
  3. Grave Planet
  4. Soul Harvest
  5. Intermission // Intermission (Instrumental)
  6. Toll the Dead
  7. The Cycle
  8. Transcendence
  9. Dark World ft. Chris Whited of Bodysnatcher

“Fleshless King” by Shxttered is out now.

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