Sometimes, this particular scribe finds it useful to glance backward and spend some quality time with an album defined by good memories, high spirits, and the sweet taste of familiarity. In that spirit, we post a lot of brief retrospective reviews over on our Instagram, but said pieces seldom make their way here to graze in greener pastures. Here are eight brief write-ups of death metal albums that we have revisited over the past few months--a veritable death metal menagerie. Enjoy! - Ed.
GOJIRA - From Mars to Sirius (2007)
There are few albums that remain so influential in my indoctrination into the chrvch of riff-centric music. Mastodon's essential Remission, perhaps, tops the heap, but Gojira's multiple efforts cycle through rotation on a remarkably consistent basis. From Mars to Sirius is a monstrosity of an album, demonstrating the heaviest of riffs within the confines of a striped-bare (yet progressive) mentality. Here, Gojira's trademark conceptual and thematic underpinnings are on full display--not preachy, but immediate. And never have whale sounds sounded so utterly massive. In short? If you've missed this album in favor of their more popular releases...you should probably get on that.
HOODED MENACE - Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed (2018)
Although this was released early on, no other album impressed me in 2018 with such a finely-tuned ability to straddle the line between death’s crushing riffage and funeral doom’s dismal gloom. Harrowing and heavy, the layers of grotesque yet melodically lofty leads form a near-tangible environment for these Hooded Menaces to dwell. Despite these leanings,“cavernous" remains an apt description for the atmosphere. I mean, just look at that album cover. Precision and restraint in the percussive department-- and a killer vocal tone--further delineate Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed as a masterful album, easily their best (and most ominous) to date.
Written by: Izzy
For those who aren’t familiar with the deathcore and tech death scenes, Beneath the Massacre are pretty well known and recognized amongst both communities, and dare I say even beloved, certainly at least by some. They first popped up in 2007 around the second wave of deathcore when it really became popularized. As such, most of their notoriety came from the deathcore scene despite “true” fans swearing they were technical brutal death metal; granted, their first two records were more like deathcore flavoured tech-death so that was somewhat valid at the time, but nowadays this and their last record are very much...tech-death flavoured deathcore. I’d never actually listened to this band before because of my phobia of bad tech-death and bad late 2000's deathcore joining forces, but figured since this is their first album in 8 years it’d be worth checking out for posterity, especially given all the praise I’d seen for it amongst both reviewers and my friends.
I’ve spent, in retrospect, perhaps a little bit too much time in my life waxing poetic about Aborted. I’ve rambled about their latest full length, TerrorVision, at pretty much every opportunity afforded. It’s safe to say I have a deep love for this band--but yet, there is no single album in their discography that I consider a god-tier achievement. Rather, each subsequent effort they release stands as an accomplishment as a piece in a larger puzzle: Aborted’s nigh-untouchable legacy. They have, as far as I’m concerned, never released a dud, despite a stupidly complex rotating cast of characters. Marked consistency is the name of the game, and on La Grande Mascarade, their latest three-track EP, these revered pros deliver another satisfying slab of desecrated death metal meat.
Given the wide display of personal taste we've curated amongst our cabal of scribes, it's not often that the Sleeping Village as an entity is collectively all a-buzz about the same album. But Ulcerate's high-quality track record is, in many ways, a great unifier. Thusfar, their career has been a remarkably blemish-free endeavor. Moreover, their continued reinvention of extreme metal motifs has led to some of the best examples of genre-melding madness the metal community has had the joy of witnessing. It seems, frankly, that they can do no wrong, and--spoiler alert--Stare Into Death And Be Still only further cements their status as legends. Equal parts technically adept and emotionally bombastic, this album is going to be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel on quite a few year end lists. Mark my words.
To assess Ulcerate's latest offering, two Village-dwellers--Izzy and Loveloth-- took up the pen to express their views, making for a rare double review 'round these parts. Without further ado, I'll let them do the talking.
Given the multitude of new releases that, on a daily basis, traipse through the eel-infested waters of the Sleeping Village’s moat, only to hurtle themselves headlong into the unfathomable depths of the promo pit, my views on listening for enjoyment have changed significantly over the past few years. I used to meticulously hunt down albums that would, through mass repetition, become lifelong favorites. That was the ultimate goal: find music that neared perfection, in my narrow and subjective gaze. However, I am now quite content to spend time in the enjoyment of music that I know will satiate me for a few days before it is time, once more, to move on. If I happen to return to it later on? Great. If not? That’s fine too--sometimes music can be good without providing significant staying power.
To be frank, I approached Four Dimensional Flesh with immense trepidation. Brutal death metal and/or slam aren’t exactly locales I find myself frequenting with any kind of regularity--if I pass through, it’s usually a lone track in the midst of an otherwise innocuous playlist. While the dedication to slammin’ riffs and woodpecker-on-a-hot-tin-roof percussive fills are certainly attractive bedfellows, the trademark drainpipe gutturals and resonance chamber bree-brees really ain’t this scribes cup o’ vox.
And yet here we are, plumbing the gurgling pipes with a grim sense of glee. Why? Because Afterbirth, much like Wormhole, strives to make slam interesting. And it is this quality that remains Four Dimensional Flesh’s greatest strength amongst strengths.
If medical waste is unceremoniously disposed, as I like to imagine, in a dumpster out back behind the hospital, San Jose's Aseptic is the resulting viscera stew that oozes from bio-hazard bags and pools in the bottom. Not sure what I mean? Just imbibe in the sluicing juices and slimy riffage of Cascading Fluids' "Intro." If you're still having trouble painting said picture--and god help you if that's the case--it may help to take note of the irrefutable fact that this EP legitimately sounds like it was recorded in a dumpster.
Hyperbole aside, this is good stuff. If you happen to be familiar with Aseptic’s stellar Senses Decay EP, just know that this is an entirely different kind of beast. Same killer riffs, but the aesthetic is stripped to the goddamn bone.
If necessity is the mother of invention, nostalgia is the mother of stagnation. And, like pond scum in a scummy pond, the revitalization of old school death metal--with the Portland scene being a particularly prolific example--revels in nostalgia. Normally a bad thing, sure. But in the case of OSDM, the best and the brightest revel (righteously so) in the worship of legacy genre motifs. And, unlike many genres under the sun, I would argue that these backward-looking outfits--bands that don’t strive to make strides--can indeed be responsible for some of the most unabashedly fun heavy music available. Enter Coffin Rot, with their debut album in tow.
I was first impressed by these guys when they first put out an EP with a gnarly logo and gnarlier riffs. Then they dropped a split EP with fellow OSDMites Molder, and I was sold, fully and completely. In my review of the latter, I stated these “Oregonian underground plague merchants display an instant maturity...as they dig up bodies with a steam shovel.” Here, I’m pleased to report that A Monument to the Dead is more of the same--if you were to take the same, that is, and crank it up about, erm, 11 notches. Any and all ample promise these corpse-lickers displayed last year is amplified tenfold here. The result? Easily the best straight OSDM worship released in 2019, in this particular scribes’ inflated opinion.
While many of you are likely aware of the plague pit we keep out back here at the Sleeping Village, a better kept secret is our vomit pit. That's where we go when the going gets...gross. Luckily, Pornographic Seizures, the debut from Ohio's nigh unpronounceable Sanguisugabogg, comes with an appropriate warning on the label: "we are not responsible for any instantaneous vomiting upon listening." Thanks, guys. Long story short, we made it out to the aforementioned vomit pit prior to hitting play on this 4-track grotesquerie , and everyone is for the better because of it.
Pornographic Seizures is just that: gross. Obviously. And in that spirit, as is the case of most metal of this variety, it's a bit of a race to see how many negative words I can attribute in a positive light.
The news-report strains of ‘“From the Graves We March” rise, with staticky dial-up gravitas, above the groans. Without further ado it's officially on: Apocalypse by way of Zombie, the viscerally apropos downfall of humanity as we know it. Is there really any better fodder for a death metal album? I think not, and, evidently, neither does the international two-piece Reign of Terror. Comprised of Jereth Fewings on the instrumentation and Oscar Diaz handling vocal duties, these guys brandish their influences on their sleeves with a forthright pride, citing and recalling their heroes--be it Death, Deicide, or Dethklok, among a host of others--with the glee that one simply can not fake. I mean, just look at the logo. These guys love death metal, and their debut album is a well-conceived expression of said passion.
Decimation of Mankind is defined in many ways by the toilet-gurgle vocal stylings, which will either suck you in or reject you violently, depending entirely on your tolerance for the regurgatorial approach of, say, Aborted, Deicide, or Dying Fetus. In our track premiere for “Sacrificial Slaughter," the expulsive vocal tendencies of Vomitory were brought into play, and that descriptor continues to hold well here. Mr. Diaz displays a balance between gurgles and screams mightily, layering a certain raspy scream that, at it's best, inject a little hardcore ‘tude into the melting pot. While, as a whole, the vocals are improved upon in Reign of Terror’s sophomore release, they are still energetic and remarkably dynamic on Decimation.
Given the prior stage-setting, I hesitate to use the term "clean” in reference to Decimation of Mankind, but no bones about it: this is good clean death metal. Nothing flashy. Nothing heady. Just good ol’ brain-pummeling. As it should be. That said, the majority of the tracks herein are strangely hypnotic--recalling, oddly enough, a darkwave-esque sonic quality. Dance With the Dead comes to mind, in terms of the lurching riffs that ebb and flow, typically muffled and subdued by the sheer force of the vocals, but occasionally forthright in a show of primal ferocity.
This album is stuffed to the brim with fun moments. Take the simple yet invigorating buildup on “Thy Savior is Thy End,” which never fails to elicit an ill-advised neck whipping. The eventual tempo changes on this track do wonders to avoid stagnation, as do the electronic leanings on “The Plague”--one of the albums more intriguing moments. “Machine of Vengeance” is an absolute goddamn barnburner, rivaled only by its immediate follow-up in terms of violent zeal. “Creation Breeds Decimation” is a stellar track, grinding and driving with assertive abandon. Here, the Reign of Terror formula operates at its best, as the vocals, guitar, and percussion mesh together in a relentlessly satisfying sense. Tracks such as this demonstrate that at their best, Reign of Terror are genuinely following--and filling--the footprints of brutal death's giants. Tying things up with an intestinal bow, the album ends off with the purely atmospheric church bell ringing of “...And to the Graves We Return.” While outros are largely unnecessary, it works in Reign in Terror's benefit to bring the overall narrative to a satisfying close.
From a needs-improvement standpoint, there are several aspects of note. The first--as is often the case when this particular villager turns a critical eye--is song length. This particular brand of death benefits from punchy runtimes, and with multiple songs stretching across the 6 and 7 minute marks, a trimmed refrain here or there would serve each track's individual impact. As a result, the album’s back half--home to some of the shorter tracks on display--is the more impressive. The vocal cadence is another sticking point, as a similar chanting rhythm appears enough times across the album to become overly familiar. That said, in both cases Reign of Terror's sophomore effort is a giant step in the right direction. Self correction in practice.
Bottom line? These guys aren't revolutionaries of the death metal scene by any means...but this is death metal, after all, and the vast majority of the time all we're looking for is a neck-snapping good time. To this end, Reign in Terror deliver in spades. And if you’re a fan Decimation, fear not: they release new music on a ridiculously impressive timeline, and, as mentioned, their follow-up, entitled Revolution Through Violence, is already out. Listen to "Thy Savior is Thy End" below:
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!