I always love watching a band’s evolution; there’s something gratifying about seeing a band that you stumbled upon one day honing their craft and growing as both musicians and songwriters. Such is the case with San Diego’s Condemned, whose newest full length Realms of the Ungodly sees them transcending their humble slam beginnings and coming into their own as a promising technical brutal death metal band.
Of course, this isn’t to say that their key elements aren’t still there. Condemned have always had a unique sound, mostly due to Angel Ochoa’s distinct gutturals and Forrest Stedt’s extremely tightly tuned snare, and all of that is still available in spades, but this time around they’ve cranked everything up to eleven. Ochoa’s voice is deeper and more natural sounding, and the snare has a sharper ring to it now that it doesn’t sound so compressed. Combine that with Steve Crow and Paul Avila’s skillful blending of slams and tremolo riffs and you have the pandemonium that is Condemned.
The band’s previous album, Desecrate the Vile, was no lightweight to begin with, but it was still a fairly straightforward slam album, whereas Realms of the Ungodly could easily be mistaken for Defeated Sanity. Pretty impressive change in the space of just one album, even if they were a few years apart.
The songs tend to blend into each other after a while, but don’t let that deter you. Usually when people say that about an album they mean it gets monotonous, but in this particular case it actually speaks to the band’s consistency. Some songs are better than others, sure, but even the songs that sound the same are all really good, and I don’t know about you but I certainly can’t complain about that. The solo in the title track helps break up the “monotony” for a bit, but it’s pretty brief and it’s the only one on the album. Who knows, maybe Condemned will continue to expand their sound and have more solos in the next one.
One more thing that really impressed me with this album was its well-penned lyrics. It’s common knowledge that death metal goes with images of hellish otherworldy dimensions like PB&J, and Realms is no exception, but it does it very well. The lyrics are very in-depth, giving detailed accounts of the actual biology of the demons and monsters. Example from the opening track “Ere the Dark Sovereign”: “Breeding in pitch darkness, genus endemic to the catacombs of the underworld. Utterly devoid of sensation, asexual process of autoreplication”. It’s nice to see a band as brutal as Condemned really putting effort into their lyrics when they could just as easily have scribbled down “hail Satan death gore zombies gguuuuurrrgh” and no one would have been the wiser.
While we’re on the subject, I should point out that Ochoa’s sewer-drain-in-a-rainstorm gutturals actually do become more intelligible if you read along with the songs, but even still, I highly doubt these dudes get a whole lot of guys in the audience mouthing along with them at shows.
And there you have it folks, Condemned in a nutshell. From its effectively ominous intro to the closing track “Submerged Upon Phlegethon”, Realms of the Ungodly is a consistently heavy, well-written half-hour of controlled chaos, and hopefully one of many to come from a legitimately talented band with a lot to offer the scene. Highlights include “Ere the Dark Sovereign”, “Realms of the Ungodly”, “Forged Within Lecherous Offerings” and “Submerged Upon Phlegethon”. If you like your music fast and your slams beefy, this one’s definitely for you.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Realms of the Ungodly was released by Unique Leader Records in November and is available at bigcartel (along with other merch) or from the Unique Leader web store, as well as from iTunes and Amazon mp3. The truly awesome album art is by the infamous Jon Zig. You can follow Condemned on facebook via this link. New here’s the album’s title track for your head-bludgeoning pleasure:[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/06-Realms-Of-The-Ungodly.mp3|titles=Condemned – Realms Of The Ungodly]