After spending untold hours uprighting the fruit carts, replacing the cobblestones, and hiding the corpses in the plague-pit, we here at the Sleeping Village were forced into a conclusion of sorts: maybe our Town Square isn’t the best place to celebrate 2018’s absolute domination in the death metal department. But oh, what righteous dominion! In reflection, despite some furious big-name releases, this year belongs to the lesser-known bands. Those bands are (more often than not) represented by some of the most innovative & forward thinking labels of our time, and these labels deserve our support. Example? Redefining Darkness Records, who notably put out Oxygen Destroyer and CIST this past year, are always on my radar in terms of extreme music that both embraces the past and celebrates ingenuity. The forthcoming 2-track demo from Warp Chamber--who, judging from their short bio, prefer to let their music speak for itself--fits brilliantly into this fold.
Taking inspiration from the obvious death metal greats--they cite Suffocation, Morbid Angel, and Demilich, but you could honestly take your pick of early 90’s death metal and call it a wrap--Warp Chamber is an exercise in chaos. Unlike these early influencers, however, individual Warp Chamber songs never feel tied to a central theme. Featuring two tracks of respectable length, Abdication of the Mind is a pummeling voyage through brief soundscapes. In the midst of exploration, some moments seem to lurch deliberately--like a subway car that is perpetually achieving a little too much momentum before each stop, Warp Chamber often applies the brakes with a gleeful aggression, before launching once more into a breakneck pace. If you prefer a musical comparison, think early Dying Fetus’ tendency to adjust tempo at the drop of a hat, perhaps mixed with Nocturnus’ excitable and perpetually shifting riffage. The result is a constantly evolving piece of music. The growls and guitar weave and wend, the drums lurch, and both tracks are stitched together with unexpected complexity and technicality.
While not particularly unique in the grand scheme of death metal howlers, the nature in which the vocals are buried really allows Abdication of the Mind’s ambiance to gel. Abandoning all attempts are remaining a vehicle for lyricism, the vox becomes another feature in the chaos. The throat-clearing hacks and snarls on the title track are particular highpoints--in the swirling aether, these noises keep Warp Chamber with one foot firmly planted in the grotesquery of firma terra.
At 16 minutes, give or take some twisted riffage here and there, Abdication of the Mind is a perfectly timed affair. A solid intro to Warp Chamber’s dimension-trodding sound, and a wholly worthwhile addition to the year’s veritable corpse-tsunami of quality death metal.
The process of reviewing a split is informed by an intrinsic complexity, when compared to an album or EP proper. On one level, a split relies on both band’s individual abilities to deliver the goods. On another, however, a split is also dependent on the interaction between the bands, their capacity to communicate with the other in a shared environment to create a mutually beneficial experience for themselves & the audience. In an ideal situation, the two sides either serve to concretely reaffirm the other (such as this year’s Vastum/Spectral Voice EP), or to expand upon their counterpart by presenting a foil. A good example of the latter might be Windhand’s recent split with Satan’s Satyrs, or Iron Reagan’s work with Gatecreeper. In both cases, the sonic quality each band brings is distinct, but the entire package has an utterly unique quality, greater than the sum of its parts. This is the arena in which a split will tailspin or triumph. It is with visceral joy that Sleeping Village confirms: Coffin Rot & Molder work together with a grisly voracity.
Both bands contribute three tracks--two originals & a well-curated cover each. First up is the Rottin’ Coffin, whose demo EP released earlier this year has been re-appearing in my rotation with a respectable resilience. Putting the “Old Skool” in OSDM, these Oregonian underground plague merchants display an instant maturity. Living Cremation brings the rabidity, & the significantly lengthier Unmarked Shallow Grave contains distinct movements, a sure sign of sophistication in the death metal universe if e’er there was. Their cover of Hung, Drawn, and Quartered brings plenty of grit, maintaining an exfoliating intensity in the guitar department that rivals Cancer’s original--a feat in & of itself. Here, Hayden Johnson’s vocal quality is particularly forthright & (dare I say) repugnant. The strongest suit of an already disturbingly competent cover.
Purveyors of the B Side, Molder are no less grisly in their offerings. Indeed, their approach feels more primitive than their counterpart’s. While Coffin Rot is digging up bodies with a steam shovel, Molder resorts to using their ragged fingernails. The result is a welcome contrast, a lo-fi expression of underground death. Across the split as a whole, Condemned to the Catafalque is a standout track, due in large to the simplistic belfry-burning riff & Aaren Pantke’s straight-to-the-point distressed bark. The general approach is one of few excesses--this is death metal reduced to the essentials, exemplified especially in their version of (the aptly titled) Repulsive Death, by fellow Chicagoans Morgue.
Sonically, of course, there are distinctions between the two. Coffin Rot’s production is as ripe as, well, a rotting corpse, whereas Molder’s half sounds like it has been pulled from the locked jaws of a dusty cadaver. In other words, Side A sounds like compost, Side B sounds like a crypt. The latter has the appeal of a hand-me-down cassette, with strangled dynamics & a dry tonality. This, combined with the breakdown on Sulker, evokes a certain DIY punk aesthetic. With a tendency for rumbling monotony, neither crosses the threshold of professional production, but if this isn’t appealing to you as a listener, we here at the Sleeping Village suspect you might have stumbled into the wrong neighborhood.
The world of underground death metal pulls few punches, but all to often flounders in derivation. While the covers of classics are the primary commercial draw here, Coffin Rot & Molder add a whiff of fresh air into the formula by way of sheer energy. In some ways, it’s odd to associate such a violent form of metal with a feeling of jubilation, but fans of underground death will undoubtedly pick up what I’m layin’ down. Listening to this split is an absolute grin-inducing joy, made only more enjoyable by each band’s tendency to highlight a different aspect of the fetid death metal aesthetic. If we can expect this kind of music from both Coffin Rot & Molder in the future, we’re in for a treat. Standing before you are, undoubtedly, the genre’s forthcoming (lich) kings. Highly recommended!
Given a proclivity towards the general aesthetic of the holiday, this particular Sleeping Villager has spent these days after Hallow’s Eve in the pursuit of an appropriately visceral soundtrack. Something to maintain a healthy dose of terror in the hearts of my neighbors. Preferably something bloody & skeletal, wearing nothing but the tattered, mildew’d remains of a bygone era. Is that too much to ask? Of course not, because when one asks Rotted Life Records for the goods, Rotted Life delivers, serving death metal delicacies on a maggoty platter. Today we’re dissecting (& digesting) Imitation, the forthcoming 3-track demo from Bay Area death thrashers Laceration.
In the grand scheme of things, the return of Laceration from the dreaded precipice of Everlasting Hiatus has not been a pressing issue in my music listening existence. Their prior efforts (2 demos + an EP + a split,) while by no means bad, is uniformly characterized by a certain quality--let’s call it “aggressively run-of-the-mill.” Despite eliciting some impromptu headbanging, these early efforts are like going to the same haunted house for the 3rd or 4th time. You know it's supposed to be edgy & scary, but predictable jump scares & an absent element of surprise makes for little more than an exercise in averages. Before you jump ship now, let me be clear: I only speak this harshly of so that it's painfully obvious how good their triumphant return actually is. Experiencing Imitation is like going to that same haunted house, only to find that the that the chainsaw-wielding hobo isn’t a paid actor, & that the spring-loaded skeletons have been replaced by genuine cadavers. Here, the stench of rotting flesh overpowers the sticky-sweetness of fake blood. Laceration, in other words, just got...real.
At the end of the day, this isn’t complex stuff, & for that, I love it. Sonically, listen for the calculated immediacy of Mortal Throne-era Incantation, combined with the thrashy sensibilities of Skeletal Remains or Demolition Hammer. Aesthetically, Laceration clearly takes inspiration from a wide gamut of late 80’s, early 90’s death, so in short, there is no shortage of viscera here. Take the title (& opening) track as a prime example--before we’re treated to an evisceration via jackhammer blasts & thunderous riffage, we’re witness to, well, an evisceration. An appropriate opening act, if ever there was. Granted, all this would fall into the bucket of been there, done that, but for several particularities.
Firstly, despite the gory ambiance, Laceration prove remarkably steady-handed surgeons. While many bands on the thrashy end of the death spectrum tend to play fast ‘n’ loose, these boys don’t mess around when it comes to precision. This holds particularly true in the case of Donnie Small’s blistering(ly brief) solos, the sheer intensity of which still catches me off guard 15+ listens later. Also of note is Mike Simon, who pounds the skins with the intensity & precision both of a talented newcomer with something to prove, & an experienced veteran with a reputation to maintain.
Secondly, Laceration can compose a song outside the bounds of a standard slaughterfest. Take (highlight track) Weaponized Dominion as a prime example. Despite a fairly standard structure, in under 4 minutes we’re treated to a full array of abilities, with a short bassy breakdown, thrashy riffage galore, squealing leads, & a particularly punishing chorus. It doesn’t get much better.
On Imitation, Laceration has excelled at trimming the fat. As a result, each (remarkably talented) member is given the appropriate time to shine, & this 3 track demo leaves us wishing for more. Despite the unfortunate brevity, I’ll keep coming back to this haunted house, season after season. Fear not.
A certain groggy-eyed, highfalutin' peasantry