(In this post Andy Synn reviews albums released in 2013 by Hatesphere, Reptilian Death, and Nephren-Ka.)
That’s right, there’s even more stuff we failed to cover last year. Lots more, in fact. And time is growing short, as we’re slowly starting to see the first of what 2014 has to offer appear in the NCS mailbox.
So it’s time to pick up the pace. Here’s three death metal friendly albums that we unfortunately overlooked last year. All killer, no filler.
Round 2… fight!
HATESPHERE – MURDERLUST
It’s undeniable that The Haunted were/are a key influence on the development of Hatesphere. But where the Swedish legends seemed unable to settle on a style or direction for very long, the Danish death-thrashers have long stuck to their guns and forged themselves a distinctive, manically aggressive, identity – largely thanks to the unswerving dedication of guitarist Peter Hansen.
The band (whatever their line-up) are (and have always been) absolute riff-machines, something which I don’t think will ever change. This is immediately apparent right from the get-go, as Murderlust kicks down the door and smashes everything in sight with its roid-rage riffage, callous, crushing grooves, and decimating array of murderous hooks. “Pandora’s Hell” is a dark and malevolent piece of thrash-based chuggery and binding, torturous melodies, whereas “Fear Me” is six minutes of death metal ground-and-pound that positively pulverises.
“The Violent Act” is bursting at the seams with the sort of scything riffery that the Bjorler brothers used to specialise in, locked and loaded with an extra helping of signature Hatesphere heaviness, while both the infectious “Punishable By Death” and unexpectedly anthemic instrumental “In Process” take things even further into the realm of prime melodeath malice.
The helter-skelter savagery and menacing presence of “Iconoclast” (featuring ripping guest vocals from Mr Trevor Strnad of The Black Dahlia Murder) drags things back into bloodier, death-stained waters, followed by the berserker brilliance and brooding chords of “Darkest of Forces”.
The martial death-groove of “Refill The Chest” laces its thrash-tastic aggression with piercing barbs of dark melody a la Slaughter of the Soul, after which the band close with an unexpectedly awesome cover of “Assassin” by Muse, reinterpreted so well that you’d be hard-pressed to tell it wasn’t one of their own songs, enhanced with a fresh armoury of razor-sharp riffs and explosive blast beats.
Quite simply, they own this sound.
Sample song: “The Violent Act”
REPTILIAN DEATH – THE DAWN OF CONSUMNATION AND EMERGENCE
You should never judge a book by its cover, that’s what we’re often told. But sometimes it helps to give you a hint, right? Case in point, the generic xenomorph/predator mix which graces the cover of Reptilian Death’s second album doesn’t exactly scream originality, even though it’s damn nice artwork all the same.
And to an extent that’s what you get here. The Dawn of Consummation and Emergence isn’t a particularly original album, but it is a fucking heavy blast of primeval death metal malevolence capable of getting the blood pumping with the very best of them.
The riffs – scything blasts of warped dissonance, strangling chokeholds of obsidian tremolo, neck-snapping rhythmic sledge-hammers – match bestial brutality with clinical precision, sneaking in moments of subtle technicality amidst their unrepentant onslaught.
The vocals – a mix of cancerous growls, throat-rending howls, and blood-curdling shrieks – spit an unrelenting stream of bile and spite, gnashing their teeth and unleashing their inner demons without restraint.
The drums – rolling waves of pounding kicks, whiplash-inducing snare, splashy, splattering cymbals – provide the engine, their rigid precision and unforgiving pace hammering out a back-breaking groove, occasionally breaking out into moments of angular rhythmic distortion or rampaging, thrashing lunacy.
The songs – uniformly vicious and vile – revel in their own filth and fury, each one a carefully sharpened instrument of musical murder, hooky, heavy, and horrific.
Not extreme enough for some, yet far too heavy for the casual listener, Reptilian Death have been unfortunate enough so far to slip between the cracks where most metalheads are concerned. Which is a shame, because for what this album may lack in terms of outright originality, it more than makes up for with its bloody plethora of rabid riffs and grim, gut-wrenching hooks.
A welcome return from these under-rated death metal monsters.
Sample song: “Emerge, Hatred, Emerge”
NEPHREN-KA – THE FALL OF OMNIUS
If there’s one way to grab my attention, it’s to draw your lyrics and themes from the mythos of Frank Herbert’s Dune. Of course, it helps if you’ve actually got some good music to back up your references to interstellar genocide and post-human godhood.
Thankfully French brutalisers Nephren-Ka are perfectly capable of backing up their words.
With a sound drawn from the Morbid Angel/Nile/Immolation school of death metal – all slithering bio-mech riffage and frenzied cymek drumming – the quartet blend their influences (both musical and lyrical) together into a cauldron of pure, ravenous hatred and venom, showing neither restraint nor mercy.
Tracks like “Butlerian Jihad” and “The Rise of Omnius” showcase the band at their most blisteringly aggressive. Blast beats and kick drums rain like artillery fire while scorching sweeps of laser-sighted tremolo and titanic, juddering riffs pulverise the landscape.
By contrast, songs like “Mastering The Voice” and “To The Golden Path” demonstrate their ability to harness elements of atmospheric malevolence and ominous dissonance to a hulking behemoth of crawling, crippling heaviness and sludge-coated groove.
It’s not a perfect album, as some sections (of some songs) definitely start to drag on a tad too long, nor is it the most singularly original slab of death metal I’ve heard (its influences are at times all too clear), but it’s a damn good one all the same, balancing technicality and extremity (“The Legend of Selim…”) with perfectly proportioned brutality (“Praise Shai Hulud”).
There’s potential here for the band to make a big impact. Despite its flaws, the album hits that sweet spot between intensity and intelligence too many times for it to be a fluke. The band just need to find that little something which will help separate them from their peers and their progenitors.
For now though, check this out if you’re in the mood for something unfalteringly and unfailingly brutal. You won’t be disappointed.
Sample song: “The Cymek Revolution”