(In this post our guest Kunal Choksi (Transcending Obscurity) puts the spotlight on three up-and-coming death metal bands from Russia.)
Without delving into the purely “brutal” aspect of things, let’s throw some light on the Death Metal scene in Russia. Sure there have been bands in the past, some good ones too, like Merlin and Barbarity as well as the middling ones, but the newer ones are game-changers. No longer do you have to contend with giving Russian Death Metal bands “old school” credit, some nostalgic or primitive value. Admittedly, that forms a part of the scene’s sound and that’s fine, as long as it’s not remaining primitive in terms of quality. Three Russian bands lead the scene in my humble opinion and all of them have achieved reasonable success with at least one release under their belts.
ODEM (Daemon Worship Productions)
Odem leads the pack with its unique blackened influences and a blend of aggressive and semi-technical Death Metal, with elements of modern brutality as well. Their sound is innovative in ways that American bands are often loath to do.
Odem released a full-length album in 2010, originally self-released but picked up by the local label Daemon Worship Productions, which later moved to the US and released the stunning The Valley Of Cut Tongues EP. This EP can legitimately be termed groundbreaking – it’s got the ferocity of Polish Death Metal bands along with some of the slickness, comparable to Azarath, and a forward-thinking approach that doesn’t shy away from using “brutal” elements, as in the song “Cult Of Flesh”. It’s also reminiscent of Danish bands such as Corpus Mortale where the music is upgraded to modern levels of tightly executed technical extremity. It’s got all that, and a sheen of obscure darkness all around it.
PYRE (Chaos Records)
Newly signed to Chaos Records, Pyre is destined to be everyone’s favourite. In comparison to the preceding band, Pyre isn’t as original because it derives its sound from the old-school Scandinavian scene, but its level of viciousness and aggression is unparalleled in its scene. The music is comparable to Indecent and Obscene-era Dismember meets early Vermin or Comecon, circa Converging Conspiracies. It’s pure old-school worship but strictly European, strictly scathing — no melodic hooks, no modern trendiness, just raw, virulent Death Metal with surprising potency and energy.
Ravenous Decease is such a stunning EP, released first on Blood Harvest and re-released on CD by Assault Records and on tape by a couple of labels, too, yet it remains largely unnoticed by most. It should’ve propelled the band to universal acclaim but hopefully now the band will get some of that, with its new full-length album coming out soon on Chaos Records entitled Human Hecatomb.
GROND (Assault Records)
This survey couldn’t be complete without a band playing truly old-school music in the Russian spirit, comparable to early Master, Sepultura, and the like. Grond does it more competently and with more balls than the others. It’s like a tank, perhaps an antiquated one, but with so much firepower and bulk that it doesn’t matter, as long as it gets the job done.
This is beastly, hook-laden music, the kind that would have you running to the crazy pits, in somewhat barbaric fashion. Grond is actually named after the “one hundred and fifty-foot long battering ram with a head in the shape of a ravening wolf” from Lord of the Rings. Go figure.
Special mention must be made about the breathtaking artwork and presentation of the Grond Howling From The Deep digipack release – it’s got a connected three-panel artwork both outside and inside, apparently inspired by H.P. Lovecraft.