Your Chance to Die was formed nearly 10 years ago now, back in 2007 by current band members Missi and Coca Avila. As often happens over time, lineups change, people come and go and the current lineup has likely the biggest change any band could have in the addition of a second vocalist. Joining Missi on vocals now is Som Pluijmers (ex-Cerebral Bore) who, until now, had not recorded with the band but had toured with them, even becoming the lone vocalist for some shows when Missi couldn’t tour. Ron Dalton on guitars and Thomas White on drums are the other newcomers for Ex Nihilo. Looking back, one can find evidence of more than two previous full-length albums, but we’ll defer to the band’s official bio that lists Suscitacio Somnus (2011) and The American Dream (2013) as their previous albums, both of which were met with critical acclaim for the intensity behind the music as well as the complex arrangements and outstanding musicianship. From the start on vocals, Missi, has initially attracted attention for being a female in the genre, but after hearing their releases and seeing them live, the skeptical are quickly won over as she is simply great in the role. For me seeing them in their early days at Cornerstone Festival, the fact that she was sporting an Antestor shirt put my mind a bit at ease before they even took the stage. For Ex Nihilo, the band began talking with Dave Ellefson (Megadeth) and Thom Hazaert and signed to EMP Underground the extreme metal imprint for the EMP Label Group and again employed Jamie King (Between the Buried and Me) for recording and used Zack Ohren (Machine Head) for mixing.
Ex Nihilo (“Out of Nothing”) starts out with an omnious sounding intro track that could in fact hearken back to images of a primitive Earth, befitting the title and its typical reference to creation. “End of Seige” begins the sonic onslaught and immediately the machine gun fire double bass strikes the ear as much as the technical interplay between guitarists Coca Avila and Ron Dalton. One of my favorite parts is an opening scream before the verses start. The music quiets and the raspy, deep guttural scream explodes into the quiet, a foretelling of what is to come. Throughout the album, Missi and Som trade off vocal duties and they are for lack of a better word, simply brutal. The deep growled death vocals are there as one would expect given the history of the band but there is now a second voice that is discernible in the mix and the band has made the most of that variety in crafting the songs.
One prime example of the power of two vocalists who are similar but different is in “Feeders” where you have a point-counterpoint going on within the song and different vocal styles. There’s the deep, growled death vocals, but now also there is a slightly higher shrieking vocal in the mix that would be equally at home in black metal. Best of all though, the vocals are just part of the soundscape. The guitars trade riffs, harmonize one technical riffs and in general manage to make the complicated flow from one section to another. Feeders also brings in some atmospheric elements that add to the overall sound without becoming a distraction and the song manages to transition at the end into a driving rhythm, which adds further complexity and variety.
Eerie keyboards open up “Skinwalker” and then continue in the background after the guitars and drums take over the lead. Fans of bands like Antestor and A Hill to Die Upon, like myself find some familiarity in some of the guitar parts early in the song and the song itself settles for a bit into a driving rhythm punctuated by the dark vocals shouting “You can’t hold me…”. One other aspect to the sound of YCTD is the sudden stop and redirection they manage to pull off in songs. Just when you think you know where the song is going, there will be that sudden stop and in an instant, the tempo changes, new riffs take over and the juggernaut has pivoted seamlessly. At times, this reminds me of something like the Titanic being able to make a 90-degree turn on the fly – to turn so much momentum and power that quickly makes for some great listening.
Antestor influences in sound come more to the front in “Shapeshifters” while the drumming of Thomas White really hits its stride in this song, providing the deep rumble and complexity to the low end that alternates between fast and ludicrous while the guitars blaze through some technical riffs in harmony. Again here, the band manages to twist expectations as well by shifting to a short section of clean guitars with some piano before relaunching into the thunderous rhythms. My only real issue with the mix on the album is that I would have liked a bit more drum to come through as it is so worth hearing. Same thing with the vocals but really in the big picture, this is just a personal preference issue.
As the first single, “Omega” was certainly a good choice as it serves as a great example of what is on the album. Even on my first listen, I was struck not only by the technical nature of the guitar work and the thunderous drumming but also by the trade-off between the two vocalists and the power in some of the more melodic sections. As a band, YCTD have figured out how to get the most of the two vocalists without it becoming a distraction.
Your Chance to Die have taken their technical, melodic death metal sound to a new level. Pummeling drums, great guitar work and incredible vocals combined with some great song crafting have made Ex Nihilo into an album that exudes power and confidence…it grabs you and doesn’t let go.
Written by John Jackson
02. End of Seige
06′ Shadow and Flame
08′ Ignite the Sky
Missi Avila – Vocals
Som Pluijmers -Vocals
Coca Avila – Guitar
Ron Dalton – Guitar
Thomas White – Drums
Record Label: EMP Underground/EMP Label Group, April 2017