Hester Prynne is a prime example of why the current deathcore scene still has a chance at credibility. Before I get too far ahead of myself, I want to make sure that I specify that I am getting sick and tired of using “deathcore” as a genre-describing adjective for pretty much every review I do. Sadly, it is the largest piece of the current extreme music pie, so I’ll just have to make do with what we got. On a positive note, Hester Prynne does it right, and hopefully they can serve as an example for the ever-expanding army of similar bands that has amassed. They’re certainly one of the few bands that stand as living proof that it can be done right.
Hailing from Lawrence, Kansas, Hester Prynne is a technical and brutal deathcore band that wages an unmerciful sonic war on unfaithful women. This is clearly evident not just by the blatant lyrical content, but also by the fact that their name is derived from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”; Hester Prynne was the main character, a 17th century Puritan woman who gave birth from adultery and was ridiculed relentlessly for it. This theme is a constant throughout their debut LP, The Goswell Divorce, and it’s almost safe to say that this is a concept album about murderous revenge under these circumstances. I feel confident saying that someone from the fairer sex pissed these guys, or at least lead vocalist Lance, right the fuck off.
The music is a vicious display of semi-discordant technique and grind-esque drumming. With songs like “All Roads Lead To Hell” and “Leeann Legore”, Hester Prynne shows that they can both thrash and mosh with the best of them. Blast beats? Yeah, we do that. Grindy punch riffs with pinch harmonics? Indeed. Melodic interludes? Yup. Tormented breakdowns? Check. In fact, a great example of everything done right can be found in the track “Seventeen Is My Favorite Number”, which is easily my favorite song on the whole record. These guys are connoisseurs in all the better parts of deathcore, and they’ve managed to renew my faith that this genre might still have some staying power.
One thing that’s interesting to note is the ever-so-scarce use of electronics. The song “That Night A Forest Grew” has an interesting four second break from face smashing that sounds like it could be out of a hip hop song, complete with electronic drums and synths, and it forced me to do a double take. After listening to it a few times, I feel that this dynamic was used well enough to be included without bringing the rest of the song down, and this was a one-time thing that never really turned into a gimmick. Track 6, “Bad For Business”, is an instrumental drum and bass song with west coast rap-sounding keyboard usage. The final track, “The Courtship Of Wolves And Sharks”, closes with a serene clean guitar part over electronic drums and buzz saw-like whirring. Strangely enough, all three of these instances seemed to fit right in with the rest of the record, even though they stand in stark comparison to the package as a whole.
My least favorite part of the record is the vocals. The mid-to-high range growls and shrieks are marginally passable at best, but they do the trick. The really low growls that make up the majority of The Goswell Divorce, however, are pretty atrocious. It sounds like someone gave the cookie monster a microphone, and it really didn’t do much for me. All in all, Hester Prynne is still entirely listen-able, but this one aspect stopped me from falling completely in love with them.
When it’s all said and done, The Goswell Divorce is definitely a harrowing experience, and one that I would recommend to any deathcore or brutal death metal fan. Are you pissed off and yearning for something that you could use as a soundtrack while burning the world to ash? Hester Prynne is for you.
01. My Horoscope Just Reads “Doom”
02. That Night A Forest Grew
04. All Roads Lead To Hell
05. Leeann Legore
06. Bad For Business
07. The Goswell Divorce
08. Seventeen Is My Favorite Number
09. An Ambulance In Traffic
10. Let’s Give The Boy A Hand
11. The Courtship Of Wolves And Sharks