Roughly a decade has passed since Undercroft left Chile for Northern Europe. Roughly six years have passed since the band’s last studio release, during which time Undercroft’s vocalist and bassist Alvaro Lillo became a live performing member of Watain. But this group has re-grouped, and the blood of their homeland beats in this new album, the band’s sixth since 1995, Ruins of Gomorrah.
Undercroft hook you up like Frankenstein’s monster. They drive those iron bolts into your neck and then bring down the lightning in one super-charged rhythmic blast after another until you just can’t help but jump and bang your helpless head. This is maggot-ridden, old-school death metal that’s so packed full of deep-grooved, beefy riffs and mauling percussion that even rotting flesh could not help but move with the rhythm.
But as much of a riff-monster as this album is, it’s also something more. Listen to “El Triunfo De La Muerte” and “Emplando Al Invasor” and you’ll hear the rhythms of South America in the “tribal” drumming and the melodies, and you’ll even be surprised by brief trumpet notes in the latter track before being engulfed in a decimating explosion of blast beats and huge, grinding riffs. And, holy hell, there are congas and acoustic guitar in the title track.
Even when the rhythms and melodies of Undercoft’s homeland aren’t as overtly present in the songs, the music is still massively compulsive. Sticking mainly with up-tempo beats, Undercroft roll out riffs that jab and punch and hit like piledrivers, sometimes with golem-like lumbering grooves and sometimes in jolting staccato bursts and sometimes (in “Legions of Beelzebiub”) with grinding tremolo picking.
Death-doom rears its skull-like head in the title track and in “Outro (Drained By Succubi”), but the album also includes thrash influences, locomotive chugging, and classic old-school heavy metal, as well as the dominant old-school smell of the dank crypt, thanks to grisly melodies, guitar solos that slither like zombie sidewinders and squall like a storm, and that familiar exploded-transformer tone in the low end.
You’ll even find a ghoulish death-metal cover of Twisted Sister’s “The Beast” as a bonus track.
Guitarist Claudio Illanes deserves a bouquet of black flowers and polished skulls for concocting such infernally seductive riffs. The drumming of Pablo Cortes is also a huge standout on this album. It’s a big and welcome presence in the mix. It booms and rolls and blasts like massed shotguns, and it’s never less than bone-breakingly heavy.
The lyrics, which are barked and howled and vomited forth as if by a rabid wolfpack — are a mix of Spanish and English, and sometimes they don’t consist of much more than the name of the song repeated over and over again. But it’s really easy to get caught up in them.
I found it really hard, for example, not to scream “DEAD HUMAN FLESH!” over and over again when the chorus of that song kicked in, even though it probably would have gotten me arrested in the security line at the airport (which happened to be where I first heard it through my earbuds).
If you think about a blend of old-style Morbid Angel and Sepultura, vaulted forward in time and burnished to a modern razor’s edge, that will give you a head start on Ruins of Gomorrah. But fortunately, you really don’t have to use your imagination because we’re fortunate to be able to stream the entirety of this massively infectious album for you right here. Lethal music with lethal beats.
Ruins of Gomorrah is being released by Season of Mist today and is available wherever fine metal is sold. SoM has even made the delicious song “Black Magik Witches” available for free download at this page. Undercroft can be located on Facebook via this link and they have an official web site at this location.