Palm – To Live Is to Die, To Die Is to Live review

To Live Is to Die, To Die Is to Live is a relentlessly brutal, monumentally pissed-off beast of a record. It’s heavy, venomous, and uncompromising. But what surprised me about it, and what keeps me coming back and listening to it time and again, is the surprising amount of diversity and creativity on display here. Hailing from Osaka, Japan, Palm possess a relatively lean discography considering that they’ve been around for 18 years now, but even compared to their previous release, 2014’s EP The Unusual, the sheer scope of the musical growth here is stunning. The closest comparison that springs to mind is probably Nails‘ nihilistic brand of grindcore/crust punk, but Palm also dexterously weave in influences from bands like WormrotConverge and All Pigs Must Die, as well as straightforward hardcore punk, sludge metal and death metal more broadly, but it’s the way in which they tie these elements in together so seamlessly which makes this album such a success.

Don’t get me wrong: this is one of the heaviest albums you’re likely to hear all year, and if you hear Nails‘ You Will Never Be One of Us but wanted something arguably even heavier, this might just hit the spot for you. The opening string of songs, particularly opener “Scapegoat” and follow-up “Only Ego” explode right from the start, with jarring, dissonant chords straight out of Converge‘s playbook, crushing breakdowns and guttural death growls, as well as more melodic, but also move overtly metal guitar passages. The latter song frequently returns to a tremolo-picked riff which serves to bookmark many of the more frantic sections, as well as more melodic, technical lead guitarwork. But it’s the utterly devastating breakdown/slam section about 50 seconds in which totally sold me on this record. It’s one of the most perfectly orchestrated breakdowns I’ve ever heard in a song of this style, and will more than satisfy masochistic metalheads. The production, courtesy of Taylor Young (Nails, Twitching Tongues) and Brad Boatright is superb, with a balanced mix with plenty of headroom to avoid any worries of sterility.

The drumming is never less than stellar, and in fact it’s what drives much of the energy and variety on display on this album, whether Kenta Nakanishi is performing d-beat drumming, blastbeats, or whatever the hell else he comes up with. “Burn the Silence” definitely draws on Converge‘s unique blend of thrash metal/hardcore punk, and vocalist Takahashi’s demented screams and roars even remind me of Jacob Bannon at points. The crushing, sludgy riffs of “Ex Owner Is Fucked” could sunder mountains, “Blood Clot of Pain” sounds like it could have been on Jane Doe aside from the infectious melodic riffs at the 1-minute mark. “音我苦 -Ongaku-” leans much more into their grindcore/metal influences with technical, melodic guitarwork and a dazzling guest solo from former Gridlink guitarist Takafumi Mastubara. The closing title track is a slower, moodier beast, with some of the sludgiest, heaviest grooves of any song on the album which gradually build and explode into a sequence of haunting lead guitars, ending with a crushing guitar-driven dirge.

This is a furious statement of intent from a band who one might have forgiven for losing their edge after 18 years, and yet on To Live Is to Die, To Die Is to Live is not only their best record to date, it is hands down one of the best extreme albums of the year. The album succeeds without exception in blending disparate styles from a variety of extreme genres into a cohesive, brutal and impassioned set of tracks which never overstay their welcome. Do not skip this album.

To Live Is to Die, To Die Is to Live is available now digitally and on limited edition vinyl through EVP Recordings. They are currently touring Europe with fellow Japanese powerviolence band Friendship.