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.
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.
Written by: The Voiceless Apparition
Wombbath is a band that is simultaneously revered and underrated. I suppose the reasoning for this is that they formed pretty late during the Swedish death metal boom (formed in 1990) but that shouldn't have been the case. I'm glad that they reformed a few years ago because the quality of the albums are still great and it introduces them to a new sect of death metal fans who weren't born when they formed (that includes me). Choirs of the Fallen, I am happy to say is their best album since reforming and it goes beyond where they were with the previous 2 albums but while still sounding like themselves.
Choirs of the Fallen kicks in immediately with "Fallen," and this is a stellar opener. Running the gamut of death metal, crust punk, and small flourishes of black metal, this track bleeds aggression, and, at the same time, sinister atmosphere. It's a truly eerie sounding track. Track #2, "Crawling from the Pits," begins with a short intro but quickly bursts into a firestorm of groove and break neck aggression. This is a very evil sounding song as malevolent guitar melodies provide the atmosphere to your worst nightmares.
I dunno about you fine folks, but most days, I just need a cup of coffee. Not, mind you, the world's finest cup of coffee; just a good ol' utilitarian cup of coffee. So long as it isn't burnt and it gives me the crank I need, I am happy to welcome it into my daily routine--and, in many cases, use it as an unfortunate crutch to ease me through the brainfoggy doldrums. I'll go out on a limb here and assume I'm not the only one. This unnecessarily extensive intro exists to establish the fact that, much like coffee, sometimes a patently normal death metal album is all it takes to keep me happy in my day-to-day. And that, dear readers, is what we have before us today, beguiling ye all with its gorgeous artwork and its death metal stoicism. Plague's Portraits of Mind is an aggressively solid piece of work, with all the right parts in all the right places.
Written by: The Voiceless Apparition
Death metal is a genre I love. I first heard "Shredded Humans" by Cannibal Corpse when I was 10 years old, and have been a fiend ever since. While I tend to be a person who likes when bands experiment and progress, I also can't deny that I love a really raw and old-school death metal release that wears its influences on its sleeves, and that's where Necropsy comes in. Finland is quite known for their influx of death metal bands (metal in general) but even Necropsy remains a name unknown to most. Though they have only released two albums as of now (mind you, they formed in 1987,) they do remain a cult name within underground death metal's bowels.
This EP immediately kicks in with "Meat Ceremony," one of the most uptempo songs on this release. Complements to the guitar work, as it is catchy as hell but also as simplistic and barbarian as you can get. The main riff to this song is drowning in hooks and memorability but without sacrificing brutality. While not the best song on this release, it makes so much sense for it to be the opener. Now we move on to the aptly-titled "Fucking Dead," and man oh man is this song fucking great. As soon as the song begins we are immediately greeted by one of the nastiest doom metal riffs I have heard in a while, this riff is absolutely devastatingly heavy. The whole song continues to build upon itself before going into another catchy riff that will be sure to be stuck in your head for days.
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.
Well, here we are. The belly of the riff-lovin' extraterrestrial beast. You'll inevitably be subjected to a veritable cosmic load of Blood Incantation hype in the weeks to come prior to Hidden History of the Human Race's November 22nd release, so I'll keep this intro brief.
Blood Incantation's meteoric rise to the upper echelon of underground death metal carried with it a burden of expectation. 2016's Starspawn hit the scene with an expansive roar, solidifying Blood Incantation's reputation as an outfit willing to inject a little intensity and exploration into their forward-thinking approach to atmospheric death metal. How do you follow up a flawed-but-remarkably-promising debut? In an ideal world, by removing said flaws from the picture, while simultaneously pushing onward and upward so as to avoid stagnation. No small order.
To assess Blood Incantation's latest offering, two Village-dwellers took up the pen, making for a rare double review 'round these parts (and quite possibly a triple, if I can get my doddering ass into gear). Without further ado, I'll let them do the talking.
In the interest of transparency: Creeping Death have three things going for them right now. The first is that gorgeous cover artwork. The second is the fact that I downloaded Wretched Illusions before clambering into this airplane, and, lo and behold, theirs is one of the few albums currently available for the duration of this flight. Thirdly, and most importantly, is that Creeping Death peddles a thoroughly solid brand of death metal, and that is all and everything this weary scribe is craving at the moment. When I'm feeling this malnourished, nothing sticks to my bones quite like meat 'n' potatoes death. No bells and whistles for me, please. Just the inevitability of crushing riffage, throat-wrenching growls, and enough thrash-derived adrenaline to keep me awake, thankyouverymuch. But enough talk. Let's hit that runway, shall we?
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.
Despite remaining a banner year by most accounts, few 2018 releases exemplified the new era of underground death metal as well as the fantastic split shared between Coffin Rot and Molder. As a certain glowing account reported at the time, Molder's putrid, fetid, and otherwise sarcophagal sound wasn't created so much as uncovered. It's a relic wrestled from the locked jaws of a dusty cadaver. Call it an exercise in grave robbery--albeit committed not with the typical implements of the trade, but rather with ragged fingernails. It is with great pleasure that we here at the Sleeping Village can confirm: neither this split, nor Molder's previous EP, were flukes. Enter the appropriately entitled "Granulated Chunks," the first track off Necrobiome, their forthcoming 3-track demo.
Besides a deliciously lo-fi production value--which contributes immensely and indeed feels essential to the aesthetic--Molder operates on a simple winning formula: meaty riffs, restrained drums, and a dry-bones distressed bark. Making no particular effort to get any too quickly, the guitar evokes a near-doomy bent as it takes on riffage straight out the respective playbooks of early-era Master and Pungent Stench. The bass is buried, yet effective at providing "Granulated Chunks" the weight it oh-so deserves. The percussion does exactly what is needs to do without senseless flair--seldom do drummers receive praise for maintaining a status quo, but I'll be damned if Nick Ayala isn't becoming notably consistent. And of course, Aaren Pantke's dusty, no-nonsense tonality, which made "Condemned to the Catafalque" such a fine track, is here to stay.
All told, "Granulated Chunks" reaffirms a commitment to a core sound. Gloriously, it adds little in terms of fresh content--because let's face it. Molder doesn't deal in fresh. Their climb out of the plague pit doesn't necessitate the destruction of established motifs and boundaries. Molder represents the concentrated form of everything we underground and old school death metal fans love about the genre trappings. Give "Granulated Chunks" a listen below...and keep one eye open. With any luck, Necrobiome shall claw its way out of the grave shortly.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!