(TheMadIsraeli reviews the fourth album by Swiss death metal band Punish, released last month.)
A few bands in the progressive/tech-death realm just never got their spotlight when they deserved it FAR more than others, bands who’ve stomped the shit out of their contemporaries and yet remained overlooked. These stories are sad, with bands like Anata or Outcast getting less than their due despite being absolute exemplars of their craft, way ahead of their time, or just being better than most at writing songs, riffs, and overall intelligent compositions. Punish are one of those bands.
Their new album Sublunar Chaos is my first exposure, but it intrigued me enough that I went back and listened to the rest of their catalogue (which spans three albums, a demo, and an EP) and I can’t fucking believe I had never heard of these guys before — except that a lot of others don’t seem to know of them either. It’s a shame, because Punish are up there with the likes of the bands I mentioned above.
Punish really have it all going for them. The right influences, the perfect push and pull between those influences, and plenty of technical skill and sensibility of hook to appease anyone. Some of them are ol’ reliable influences like Death and Pestilence, but they also seems to draw from places like Anata and Obscura.
Oddly enough, while this album definitely takes the approach of the bands I just mentioned, Punish personally identified themselves as grindeathrash during the promo cycle of their last album Raptus, and I’m going to roll with that because it’s still pretty accurate. This album does appear, though, to be a bit more melodic and death-metal-centric than their other releases.
One thing Punish definitely have going for them are spurts of welcome unpredictability. Opener “Incipit Chaos” has a rather slam-centric groove to start with, and it feels like it’s going to be the song’s verse until it breaks, revs up, and goes straight into intense counterpoint melodic territory. Fretboard fire-starter riffs, elegant intricate lead work, and speed out the ass crash through the gates of your brain, and pretty soon the headbanging is on in full force. “Sublunar Black” is another mind-bender, in its odd combination of black metal and Fear Factory-esque machine gun rhythms.
Where Punish really shine is in their instrumental sections, where they let the guitar work especially take central stage. Moments like the solo section of “Self-imposed Neurotic – Corroded Ad Infinitum” (one of my favorite solos I’ve heard all year, by the by) or the neat referential neo-classical breaks the band engages in constantly within proggy roller coasters like “Notorious Deathdealer” or “Self-Imposed”. Don’t think I’m saying the vocals are a downside, though, because the soulless flesh-stripping rasp of Andre Mathieu suits the music’s cold perspective and gives everything an overall chilling vibe.
Punish has good taste in mixes, to match the music as well. They seem to prefer icy, metallic production and it fits their music well, especially here. It produces images of iced-over city remnants, frigid old war fields filled with corpses, and wandering souls.
Sublunar Chaos is truly magnificent, and one of the best death metal records I’ve heard all year. You simply MUST check this out. Not only will I post music from the album itself, I’m going to share select cuts from their other records so you can be exposed to these guys in earnest.
Sublunar Chaos was released by Apostasy Records and is available here.