Denmark-based cult-obsessed bruisers Cabal offer up a highly enjoyable and punishing blast from the very recent past with their debut. Mark of Rot is gleefully dated, featuring a lumbering sludge-infested strain of djent-y deathcore that takes the harrowing brown-note poly-rhythmic brute of Vildjharta with a much less nuanced take on aural punishment a la Black Tongue and The Acacia Strain. There’s a nice and understated emphasis on synthesized symphonics a la Sumeriancore as well. Cabal utilize a fairly lively songwriting style that focuses on mood and very subtle melody to craft deathcore that doesn’t feel like it’s simply waiting for the next computerized breakdown (which is a good thing, considering their biggest issues – more on that below). There are also some wise moves away from the chug-focused might, like the apocalyptic blastbeats of “Nothingness” and the symphonic bounce of “Rah’Ru” that help the tracks stick out from the murky production.
That said, there is a glaring problem that drags down an otherwise excellent album that should’ve been released in 2012. It sounds rather reductive to complain about breakdowns in any manner in music designed to maximize heaviness; however, where Cabal’s music fails is in deliver effective and efficient breakdowns. Chugs are the name of the game here, and when the riffs do come, they are certainly welcome, but the lack of impact that an unfortunate amount of the sludge-infected sections carry weights down the impact and importance of the breakdowns themselves. It doesn’t help that, unlike Humanity’s Last Breath – who were masters of this, Cabal’s breakdowns don’t always feel earned or even warranted. The best deathcore harnesses the absolute best out of the metallic aspects of their sound to bolster the impact of truly crushing and punishing breakdowns. Mark of Rot features two vocal guests from bands who represent the high water mark for technical and progressive deathcore (Thy Art Is Murder, Humanity’s Last Breath), and while it’s important to note that at no point is Mark of Rot a bad album, it’s certainly lacking in comparison to the best of the style. When you push forth such a menacing and joyfully heavy release, it’s a shame when such a crucial part of your style (i.e., breakdowns) comes up short.
All that makes it sound like Mark of Rot is a boring and ignorantly brutish exercise in dated deathcore tropes, but while this style has been done better, Cabal are very talented and deliver a consistently engaging and enjoyable release that doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s flaws are unfortunate, but given the amount of enjoyment to be had (for those who enjoy listening to a guitar tone that tickles your inner tummy), this marks the start of a promising career for Cabal.