Review: “Self Titled” EP by Extortionist

Primary written by previous guitarist McKay Rockwell and current vocalist Ben Hoagland with additional co writing on select tracks from close friends Kevin Rogers who also handled guitar tracking, Jake Mercer and Mike Sahm who handled Engineering, Mixing and Mastering, North West heavy quartet Extortionist dropped their self titled EP at the end of May. Due to some controversy surrounding the release, they first put it on hold and then took the decision to forfeit their royalties and instead give them to the Hope For The Day foundation that does great work for suicide prevention. As vocalist Ben Hoagland, drummer Dom Guggino, bassist Kip Freeman and guitarist Carl Schultz have announced they will be calling it a night and are currently looking to lock down a final performance, we’ve decided to go back and review one we missed.

Previous album “Sever The Chord” blended Nu-Metalcore, Deathcore and Hardcore to create Extortionists sound and that extends into “Bound by Poison” which has a killer Deathcore verse with Ben Hoagland showing some more diverse vocal range than we saw on the previous release. While he touches on the Deathcore vocal for effect, the band themselves bounce the sound around with a closing Downtempo groove second to none. Interestingly the vocal checks 2018 so one assumes that is when it was recorded. “Circle of Serpents” is similarly a battering ram of a tune with a Metallic Hardcore vibe and some Slam vocals used to give the tune a powerful amount of gravity. There is no solo in the guitar work, it’s all about the groove and very current overall Gloom sound that would have fans of a number of current Australian acts, not to mention Lotus Eater turning their heads. Bringing back the clean vocals that breathed moments of clarity into “Sever The Chord” and in particular “Intuition Knows” with that dark Alice In Chains vibe “Fill The Void” takes a gradual progression from the melodic opening strains into a heavier thunderous groove before the chorus swings back. Ben Hoagland’s introspective lyrics are dark and balanced off perfectly by the atmospheric the band have created to bring an over arching sense of meloncholy as it’s “Anything to fill the void for a night”.

The second half takes that heavier approach with some not quite blast beats and eerie atmospheric guitar squeals before a whammy bar moment in the middle of the opening verse. The riffs are largely at the Metallic Hardcore end of Deathcore with only the vocals reaching the Slam inspired territory and only ever for a few short phrasings. It’s a styling that gives the whole thing a heavier edge than the previous album and shows some progression in the bands sound and musicanship, though it could go both ways as to turning the band into a heavier gateway act or turning off some fans who liked the more melodic touches. “No Soul (Part II)” starts with an aching clean line as Ben Hoagland opens up some inner dark thoughts with a big dose of Nu-Metal introspection but also with Layne Staley quality to his voice. The pounding drums are clean and crisp thanks to an excellent mix and the guitars are kept powerful but in check to give a less is more crunch and keep the atmosphere rather than boasting which works incredibly well. Starting with a clean tone and a click-y bass tone “Dirty Hands” is an anthem of sorts that stands out for being totally different and brutally honest lyrically. It could have been written back in 1994 by a Grunge act up until the 150th second or so when it bursts into life with some big squeals and bounce in the riffs and some unclean vocals. A cultured solo brings the house down in fine form and when it’s all said and done this is a fine note to end things on. The band should be proud of their career in music [8/10]

Track listing

  1. Bound by Poison
  2. Circle of Serpents
  3. Fill The Void
  4. Forget Me
  5. No Soul (Part II)
  6. Dirty Hands

“Self Titled” by Extortionist is out now via Stay Sick Recordings

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