A cursory glance at the cover art for Annihilated, by Edinburgh’s Sectioned, might fool you into believing that this is some sort of sappy indie folk record; with its earnest depiction of what is presumably an area of rural Britain, the tones and hues of the photo seem to give a wistful, bittersweet atmosphere. However, much like the history surrounding Scotland’s beautiful capital city itself, a closer inspection reveals a much more sinister underbelly, with a hollowed out car in the foreground and lifeless winter trees in the background. It’s as if the chaotic mathcore performances within have stripped this otherwise-idyllic setting into a shell of what it once was, mirroring the effect that the music imposes upon the listener.
The band makes absolutely no hesitations in obliterating the listener from the very first few seconds of the opening track, with a couple of seconds of screeching guitar feedback seceding into an impossibly dense wall of buzzsaw riffs. It’s genuinely one of the most ‘ballsy’ openings to a heavy album in recent memory—even for mathcore’s lofty standards—and, for the rest of the album’s 45-minute runtime, the intensity persists with frenzied purpose.
Predictably, each song generally shifts between punishingly fast grindcore-inspired riffage and mid-tempo hardcore grooves, but there are many moments where any semblance of genre tropes are completely obscured by the maelström of aggression. Take for example the transition between songs ‘Betrayer’ and ‘Toothgrinder’, where the riffs and drum fills reach such a violent fever pitch that the overall soundscape creates a ‘tunnelling’ effect. Moments later, the noise fades to furious screaming from vocalist Jamie Christ and feedback effects screeching in the background, coming closer to pure noise music than mathcore.
There is a surprisingly eclectic range of sounds and influences scattered throughout, albeit to varying consistency. For example there are a couple of softer interludes on ‘Synchronicity’ and ‘Victorious, Neverending’, which serve as temporary breathing space, the heavily-reverberated clean guitar tones creating an almost-transcendental atmosphere. Then, there’s the denouement to ‘Portrait’, which spasms and writhes with Autechre-like electronic glitches until the song is fragmented into tiny pieces. Furthermore, the dying embers of the closing track, ‘Through the Trees’, end on solemn piano keys, forcing the listener to digest the chaos that has just ensued.
Despite this, there is an undeniable feeling that the band might have slightly missed a trick with Annihilated; these eclectic sounds merely add more character to an otherwise repetitive album, but there is certainly room for the band to venture further into the rabbit hole. There aren’t many individual riffs or grooves throughout which barge their way into the foreground, and so the album heavily relies on its sheer noise-driven brutality to stay engaging for the full 45 minutes. With a stronger emphasis on the experimentation that is hinted at within, Sectioned could arguably have crafted a record to be remembered in decades to come.
Overall, though, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an album in any genre that matches the unrelenting ferocity of Annihilated this year; the pure vitriol reeking from the record makes Jane Doe sound like Coldplay in comparison. As far as debut albums go, Sectioned have produced a work that is bold, consistent, and incredibly focused, while managing to perfectly strike the balance between a sound that both repels and enchants simultaneously. A surprisingly addictive listen, Annihilated is a ‘must’ for anyone who considers themselves to be a heavy music fan.