Lower 13 – Deception (Self-Released)

Wednesday, 1st November 2023
Rating: 8.5 / 10

Rare is the day that a trio of musicians stay active in their original incarnation for over seventeen years – yet that’s what you’ll get here for Parma, Ohio three-piece Lower 13. Evolving from a heavier/speed metal to hard rock style into more metalcore/thrash leanings, they’ve released four full lengths (including 2021’s impressive Embrace the Unknown on Pure Steel Records, previously reviewed by this scribe) as they switch back to a DIY philosophy for their latest EP Deception. It’s admirable to hear bands proudly push a variety of influences to siphon out the best elements in an already established style – which makes these five songs sharp, versatile in approach, while also accentuating key musicianship/songwriting qualities that should appeal to a wider cross-section of heavy music consumers.

A synthwave intro washes into this manic riff/tempo parade to start “More Time” into blitzkrieg territory, the side shuffling rhythms as well as pummeling bass/drum work creating jagged momentum across the extreme to metalcore/groove metal genres, while the versatile gruff to clean vocals between bassist Sean Balog and guitarist Patrick Capretta serve up compelling roars to passionate, alternative melodies. It’s as if the band combine elements from Nevermore, Trivium, Revocation, or Arsis into a smoother, focused attack – allowing segments of proficient bass lines or thicker, progressive guitar angles to supplement the pan left/right caustic screams and growls which make follow-up “Your Love’s a Curse” a headbanging delight. Drummer Eric Kruger knows when to sit in a comfortable groove as well as push the tempo/meter a bit through active double kick/fill transitions that make sense – even on a more commercial-oriented offering like “The One to Blame” that features some catchy riffs beyond an ear-pleasing chorus to bring all the hooks home. By the time the stunted, semi-djent shifting closer “You Just Left Her” fades away, most listeners will probably return to the beginning of this tasty, twenty-two minute and change effort.

When you can offer a lot of unique propositions and naturally blend the elements together into a coherent, focused package as Lower 13 does, the hard work should appeal to the underground (and those above) who seek out quality bands that won’t pander to the lowest common denominator in music. Those who love an aggressive form of groove-oriented melodic metal with thrash, metalcore, progressive death, and djent aspects, Deception should check off most of those ‘must have’ boxes for appeal.

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