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JFH Indie Review

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Searching Serenity

Searching Serenity

Street Date: July 7, 2023
Style: Deathcore
Buy It: Amazon

When it comes to one-man deathcore acts, there is seemingly an endless supply to choose from. Are they all good? No, they are not. Nevertheless, it's a fascinating subculture of music makers, many of whom do actually produce quality art. One of them that has caught my ear in the past couple of years is Robert Manzone's Searching Serenity, whose 2021 album The Struggles of the Earthly Ones came at just the right time for me. After another solid release in 2022's Darkness, the prolific act is now unleashing Retribution.

For the uninitiated, "deathcore" is a genre that blends the musical brutality (and sometimes darker subject matter) of death metal with the more structured and melodic aspects of metalcore. The label can rightly be applied to Retribution, though it admittedly does draw a lot more from the death than it does the core. For example: the opening moments of "The Lands Between" pummel the listener with a flurry of double bass and crunchy, chugging guitars before bringing in Manzone's deep, guttural growling to complete the set. Similar song structures are the main game for much of the album, but it never really gets to be repetitive or "samey," if you will. For instance, amid the unflinching heaviness, "Winds of Peace" enters with more of a metalcore approach, with a sound like a cross between Currents and Define the Great Line-era Underoath. Then "The Shrine of Fire" follows it up as the album's lone instrumental track, giving the listener a nice, melodic breather before "The Dark Tournament" brings back another pounding.

When I initially saw the tracklist, I thought this would be a fantasy concept album, with song titles like "The Curse of Ymir," "The Shrine of Fire," and "Hives of Nekravol." However, after doing some research, the song titles were pulled from various sources, such as Norse mythology and the Doom series of video games. In contrast, Retribution is actually purely centered around the Gospel, specifically the aspect of spiritual warfare (making such song titles seem very appropriate), showing very clearly Manzone's unabashed faith in the saving grace of Christ. For instance, "The Curse of Ymir" proclaims, "The curse of sin runs through the minds of all who walk this planet / mental fortitude broken down by Satan's torment of our mind / through the grace of God, His bountiful forgiveness / we are given the chance to be redeemed." The album really focuses on the victory of Christ against the principalities of darkness, recognizing that the Church is constantly fighting a battle, but knowing that God wins in the end. "Fight of the Valkyries" is a prime example of this topic: "As heaven opens and justice pours out, God's might is revealed / His armies pursuing to end evil's tyrannical reign on these lands / as the beast is captured, it screams out in rage / He is thrown into the lake of fiery burning sulfur for eternal punishment."

As the final words of "My Prayer" ring out ("Meticulously crafting together the world through nothing but Your words / how dare I deem myself capable of knowing better than You"), the listener is left with a sense of encouragement, being reminded that our all-knowing God has His eyes on us and is fighting (and winning) our battles. Retribution is a loud, intense, and incredibly heavy deathcore record, but it's also a highly encouraging and Gospel-centric record that fans of heavy music should really enjoy. This is a great step forward for Searching Serenity.

- Review date: 7/8/23, written by Scott Fryberger of

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. Record Label: None
. Album length: 11 tracks: 42 minutes, 44 seconds
. Street Date: July 7, 2023
. Buy It: AmazonMP3

  1. Eternal Suffering (2:02)
  2. The Curse of Ymir (3:01)
  3. The Hidden Village of Light (4:37)
  4. The Lands Between (5:12)
  5. Winds of Peace (4:02)
  6. The Shrine of Fire (3:28)
  7. The Dark Tournament (4:13)
  8. Fight of the Valkyries (3:34)
  9. Hives of Nekravol (4:46)
  10. The Ashen One (4:10)
  11. My Prayer (3:39)





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