With their third album, Worlds Apart, Perth sextet Make Them Suffer find themselves reduced to a quintet. This reduction in numbers isn’t the only change to have occurred since the release of the group’s sophomore effort, Old Souls, in 2015. Sean Harmanis’ coarse vocals and the rhythmic bludgeoning of Nick McLernon’s guitar and Tim Madden’s drums remain as Make Them Suffer’s sonic core, but Jaya Jeffery replaces Chris Arias-Real on bass while Booka Nile takes over keyboard and clean vocal duty from Louisa Burton.
These changes in line-up coincide with Make Them Suffer exploring a broader musical landscape, moving them away from the deathcore tag their earlier offerings earned them, and at times it feels as though Worlds Apart is flirting with progressive metalcore. Opening track, the aptly titled The First Movement, starts with an indiesque swell of guitar and synth before the band’s more groove-oriented approach asserts itself, counterpointed by an angular guitar riff. Nile’s clean vocals are warm and clear, contrasting well with Harmanis’ gravelly vocal fries, but her keyboard work doesn’t sit comfortably in the mix, coming across as sharp and shrill at times.
Nile’s singing and playing are used unevenly throughout Worlds Apart, with her vocal contributions sometimes feeling like an afterthought – as on Fireworks, a pop-punk take on metalcore – despite her voice fitting in well with the band’s sound. Her keyboard work either struggles to find its place in the mix – The First Movement and Uncharted – or proves to be the perfect augmentation to a track’s mood or sonic texture, as with the verbosely titled Vortex (Interdimensional Spiral Hindering Inexplicable Euphoria). On album closer, the confessional Save Yourself, Nile’s keys add a sense of dissonance, unsettling McLernon’s almost upbeat guitar riff.
Before it boils over into the expected bounding aggression, Dead Plains’ subdued intro allows Madden to employ some side stick and minimal, nuanced rhythms, illustrating he is capable of more than blunt force and blast beats. McLernon layers his guitar well, with the slightly syncopated intro riff continuing to echo and loop underneath his djenty main riff. It’s a subtle thing, but it is one of the elements that makes Dead Plains the standout track of Worlds Apart.
Listeners who are not keen on growls and screamed vocals will likely be alienated by Harmanis’ singing, but he demonstrates an unexpected flexibility and fluency with his delivery. Harmanis is capable of shifting the colour and tone of his guttural utterances, alternating between barely intelligible growls and comprehensible snarls, in service of the music. Stylistically, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but those who can accept the vocal performance as another instrument will be rewarded. Worlds Apart is a strong, if imperfect, album which shows that Make Them Suffer are willing to push their musical boundaries and evolve as a band.