Friday, March 21, 2014
As a duo who had previously contributed to the retro-thrash French obscure Infinite Translation, naturally I wasn't too enthralled to see Jon Whiplash and Gui Haunting performing in their revivalist schemes in the field of death metal with Skelethal. Now let's be clear here, folks. There's really very little to get excited about the ''Deathmanicvs Revelation'' EP that these two Frenchmen put out unless you're constantly in the mood to try out recycled riffs after recycled riffs from the 90's, pertaining to Entombed and Dismember in the highest degree possible. It's annoying enough the sound on many Swedeath revitalization attempts are so compressed and paper-thin in actual originality, but the matter doubles in banality when entire throngs of bands can't seem to free themselves of the verbosity of this situation. Not that Skelethal's capability lies solely in dialing back to '89-'93 - the Frenchmen have got more juice than a good few of their fellow aping machines - but even if the 22 minutes they presented was vigorous enough, I could never stop thinking how confined these younglings were to their style.
What I'm talking about here is, of course, loud bantering guitars with the atypical Swedish death metal toning, raw, fermenting and persistently dismissive of an eclectic listener's attempt to carve out more refined sounds; and one cannot forget the vocals either, which were, I'm afraid, by no stretch of the imagination particularly evocative in its pestering attempt to provoke horror and living fear. I suppose Skelethal channels back to the demo-stages of Grave, Entombed, Unleashed and Dismember (Nihilist, if you will), because they crave a thinner and more metallic abstraction of the guitars some of their counterparts, and I some of thrashy directions which the duo exhibited with their side project Infinite Translation certainly rubbed off on their death metal chord-playing, as the title track abundantly displayed. However, despite all my carping with the lack of innovation most of the guitar riffs and drum patterns, it goes without saying I felt a mild craving for the furious tempo and pacy edginess the Frenchmen created, and I even felt they were flirting with Napalm Death or Terrorizer on the unbridled ''Curse of the Neverending''.
Yet, for the sheer bliss of razing, chainsaw-ripping death metal out here, Skelethal doesn't have much to offer besides a few cans of grossly brewed beer. The sense of the necessity to break through and ponder a more intricately layered, worthwhile sounds shines through ''Death Returns''; it's pretty obvious that even these guys aren't really having an extremely fun time playing the stuff that's been blistering ears and headphones alike for over 20 years - but their failure at circumvention is inevitable. Thankfully, the atmospheric aspects of the EP weren't imposed with the mephetic dullness of a lot of bands in the same market, because the production was rather crisp, raw, and gave in for plenty of breathing space in the end. ''A Violation of Something Sacred'' was probably the band's dabble with death n' roll, and not a bad one, at that, but I felt the product was all the same. There might have been a moment or two here that the guitar actually stood out with sufficient memorability, but that's it... I won't demean the Frenchmen at such a preliminary effort - there have, after all, been copious bands before who took years to properly refine themselves - but let's just hope that the pastiche and creativity of the riffing is enlarged with future recordings. Till then, drink beer and hail death.
Sunday, March 16, 2014
Hence, even with their squamous sophomore ''Nekropsalms'', Norway's Obliteration was not the most proficient contender to this particular end of death metal, though I have to say I did quite enjoy the buttery, gruesome death/doom palette that it so willfully flirted with. Some four years later, the Norse return with their most convincing anomaly yet; a putrid mass of slithering, unbridled murk straight from the pits of the nether: ''Black Death Horizon''. As a record whose name actually exemplifies the characteristic blend of early Autopsy, raw punk, Morbid Angel and early Death in it, ''Black Death Horizon'' is an excellent fucking trip down the quivering, cadaverous gateways of death metal, like some nostalgia trip with a little bit of everything. Let's just get something straight: this album is hands down one of the most morbidly attractive records in death metal I've heard in a good fucking while, and not solely in its pernicious mix of influences, but as an addictive piece of sensational ghastliness...
Everything in this record from its writhing, whammy-impregnated leads flying about to the searing range of unabashed tremolos to its Autopsy-esque death/doom gruesomeness is stark and evil, even majestic at certain points. My initial fondness for the record grew with a passion for the necromantic vocals. Imagine a random punk frontman singing over the wretched, pestilent inflection of Chuck Schuldiner or Martin Van Drunnen; and I even caught a tad of Robert Andersson of Morbus Chron in there. Of course, the ominous presence of the guitars make themselves abundantly clear to the awestruck listener's trembling ear. The guitars may be meaty and murky, the bass belching like the baritone of an incarcerated demon; but despite the seamless d-beat drumming and vile vocal ranging, the Norse sustain a gorgeously demoniac clarity in the production, so the listener is never really thrown into a pointless, meandering wall of sound. Indeed, the attributions of some of the riffs aren't as sharp hooks as some others like the serpentine tremolos leading ''Goat Skull Crown'', especially when the band vies for more straightforward black/death foray in the vein of Darkthrone (as on ''Transient Passage'') but with so much bloody material compressed into a delicious pulp, the listener is only seldom reminded of such deficiencies. The melodies as on ''The Distant Sun'' or ''Ascendance'' are superb, twisted whirlpools of bile and vitriol, with an obstinate sense of adherence to much of the projections that were present on the band's sophomore, and yet the band still keeps things interesting by constantly shifting between tempos and riffs. There is always a steady, building level of tension that feels as though it'll blow the pulp up to crimson pieces of volcanic shrapnel that simply doesn't dissipate until the last moment, even on the gloomy, liquescent ''Churning Magma''...
Thus, with all its aspects, ''Black Death Horizon'' lives up to its name with utmost potential and torturous adroitness, like the product of some blissful witchery by the misty peak of the sulfuric promontory of the excellent, excellent cover. By the time this record had run its course, I found myself bathed in blood and all the other gnarly ingredients these primordial sorcerers bestirred. Sure, ''Black Death Horizon'' does have its dull moments from time to time, as I felt some of the longer tracks like ''Transient Passage'' - though still crammed to the tits of with feculent goodness - and the title track dragged about a little too long than I might have preferred, and there too were certain sequences where I thought they were recycling some of the previous guitar work with scarcely a change in drum patterns, but the overall output of the record, as displayed with such tunes as ''Sepulchral Rites'' and ''Goat Skull Crown'' makes for some of the most disgustingly appealing death metal products of 2013. So rarely do retro death metal bands actually feel motivated about their cause of purveying evil and asphyxiating entire throngs with pyroclastic mounds of dirt that this album felt like one of the most thoroughly enjoyable discs of the year. You're not feeling it until you're caked with muck.
Goat Skull Crown