Forming in Ypres, Belgium in 2012 Metallic Hardcore act Mark My Way (drummer Gillian Coussens, bassist Rutger Vermeulen, vocalist Lennart Breine, guitarists Lennert De Clercq and Niek Van de Capelle) have had a busy eight years. A choice with a decent number of bands, they wrapped up their EP collection in 2012’s “Break The Grip“, 2014’s “Save Our Souls” and 2017’s “The Big Game” into a tongue in cheek titled single album “Lustrum: Joy As Profit” in 2018 before embarking on a journey to “Thin The Herd“, their debut album proper. Recording at Barefoot Studios with Frederic Malfait of Deconsecrate fame, who also did the mixing before breaking out the big guns and gettinf Brad Boatright of Audiosiege (Twitching Tongues, Converge, Defeater) to handle the Mastering, no expense has been spared. Although not a concept album, there is a theme that runs through the album as a whole. As the band themselves put it “Thin The Herd is about the importance of daring to choose for yourself. It’s about taking risks in the journey towards being the best version of yourself. This could means saying goodbye to a certain person, or a destructive habit. You must thin your own herd, to create the best circumstances for yourself to grow. And when you are at you best, the more valuable you can be to others in their journey. This topic almost reflects in every song“.
Appearing a month before the album release in music video form, opening track “Spread Too Thin” builds the atmosphere with some sinister darkness and a spoken word before bursting into flame and full flow with some 90s Hardcore influenced dynamics and riffs. Breine uses several different voices and techniques to keep his vocals fresh while your classic gang chant “No longer… Spread Too Thin” is going to go down a storm live. Bathed in feedback, “Justification” keeps the flow going with a mid tempo chugger and some vocals that could happily sit on a Death Metal album from say The Curse Of Millhaven. The drum sound is incredible, with Coussens getting the opportunity to show of some skills, which he does with aplomb. “Higher Walls” returns to the atmosphere building with a melodic introduction that is seemingly Metallica inspired before going full throttle. A powerhouse cut, the surprise is an almost rapped and slightly strained verse that breaks back into the more accustomed tones from Breine. That’s not a criticism of them being bad, they’re just not something you’d anticipate being there until they hit. Taking a chapter from the older Lionheart playbook for “Overlooked” and letting some clicky bass from Vermeulen bleed through in the mix works really well, while the hardcore sentiment of the lyrics is very much on the mark.
Busting out into more groove laden riffs and another rap verse before the screaming starts in “Vae Victis” (that’s Latin for “Woe to the vanquished“, just because we wear black and love riffs doesn’t mean we’re uneducated!) which is a quality mid album addition before the instrumental acoustic Jonny Cash inspired “Prediction” appears and effectively splits the album in two with a pallette cleansing moment of clarity. It’s short and sweet and sounds as some of the introductions do, like they belong on the soundtrack to a Western. “At The Gates” picks up that same vibe for its opening bars before going all out dark and sinister. A more introspective lyric with guitar work that is distinctly rooted in the early 2000’s Metalcore of the likes of Phil Labonte era Shadows Fall, the track has got a nostalgic vibe to it that makes it shine.
Crawling out from the shadows of the previous cut “Nothing But Sacrifice” is very much the Harley Davidson of the album with a bit more of the rapping, which this time points the fickle finger of fate at those who have built their castles on sand. The album isn’t the polished later Metalcore era sound but distinctly and deliberately the raw Metallic Hardcore sound that is very much the rough and ready kind of DIY ethic that is coming out of the US right now with bands like Chamber, Sanction and Twitching Tongues. The decision to turn away from a sound that is polished to within an inch of it’s life is one that is very much part of this albums charm. The title “Regicide” refers to the action of killing a King and as some classy stuccato riffs take hold, it’s clear that the metaphor has a different meaning, especially when Breine reaches some previously unheard gravelly Deathcore lows and everything goes Downtempo. The piano of “Flux” is perhaps the last thing you might have expected on an album like this but our minds are open to the experimentation and addiction of sounds to build a dynamic. It’s melloncholic overtones are beautiful and we’ll thought out and by the end it has an almost mournful quality that is amazing [8/10]
Spread Too Thin
At The Gates
Nothing But Sacrifice (ft. Michael Claus of First Alliance, Fatal Recoil and Simon Denys of First Alliance, Whatever it Takes, The Boss, All Areas)
Regicide (ft. Bjorn Dossche of Rise and Fall, Chain Reaction)
“Thin The Herd” by Mark My Way is out 10th April via Dust & Bones Records