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Criminal Element - "Crime and Punishment Pt. 1" (CD/EP)

Criminal Element - "Crime and Punishment Pt. 1" CD/EP cover image

"Crime and Punishment Pt. 1" track listing:

1. Backstabber
2. Fake and a Fraud
3. Crime and Punishment
4. Fading Survival
5. Personal Demons

Reviewed by on March 2, 2011

"if you're a fan of Dying Fetus and Misery Index, it's a foregone conclusion that you'll dig this release. Fans of Agnostic Front and Madball might even find Criminal Element to be their gateway band into the grimy depths of death metal and grind."

Sometimes, when a band features members partly cobbled together from other well-known acts, it's hard not to hear the obvious parts that go into the making the sum. Such is the case with Criminal Element, the Long Island-based death metal/grindcore act that features three current members of Misery Index in Darin Morris and Mark Kloeppel on the guitars and Adam Jarvis on drums, along with former Dying Fetus vocalist Vince Matthews. Mike Lilly, apparently the lone member of the band unaffiliated with other acts, rounds out the group on bass. The long list of ex-members Criminal Element has compiled over the years also contains Sparky Voyles, who has done time in both Misery Index and Dying Fetus. So, Criminal Element's third EP, 2010's “Crime and Punishment Pt. 1,” could go one of two ways. The band could pull a complete stylistic Houdini and opt for a sound completely different from the acts most of the members do time in. Or, Criminal Element could sound like a mix of Misery Index and Dying Fetus. Largely, the band has opted for the latter.

Criminal Element is a band that can stand on its own stylistically, however, although it does contain heavy similarities to the aforementioned groups, this band brings a New York hardcore head kick to its sound. “Backstabber,” the opening track, features a delivery that wouldn't be out of place on an Agnostic Front record; steel toed hardcore grind with Matthews sounding like his days in Dying Fetus were just yesterday, minus the gurgling. “Fake and a Fraud” continues the band's punk-gone-death-metal approach with bravado and machismo, some Hanneman-King solo scale runs without the whammy bar workout, and a few tech death pinch harmonics for that extra grimace of brutality.

Next up is the title track, and the striking similarity in sound to the members other projects are, at this point, unavoidable, save for the punk leanings and the busy, solo-like bridge riffs. “Fading Survival” continues the band's rumbling hardcore bellicosity—tough guy, tank top death metal, all muscles and menace. It's music to shank your cell mate to or listen to while toiling on the chain gang. Putting the exclamation point on the EP is “Personal Demons,” and at this point you almost expect John Gallagher, Jason Netherton, and Sean Beasley to emerge from the shadows. Misery Index style interchanging, ask-and-answer vocals punctuate the song.

The somewhat obvious conclusion is that, if you're a fan of Dying Fetus and Misery Index, it's a foregone conclusion that you'll dig this release. Fans of New York hardcore bands like Agnostic Front and Madball might even find Criminal Element to be their gateway band into the grimy depths of death metal and grind.

Highs: The brutality of Dying Fetus and the grinding ferocity of Misery Index; a winning combination.

Lows: A tad predictable in places, the punk tinge saves the release from being merely average.

Bottom line: Criminal Element shows how to confidently walk the line between grind, death metal, and hardcore without lowering itself to the level of generic breakdowns. Deathcore bands take note.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)