Death metal of the old Swedish school, especially in its more melodic forms, is my metal comfort food. It proved to be my own gateway into ever-expanding realms of extreme music, and it still puts a smile on my face no matter how many times I revisit the classics. There’s something genuinely timeless about the style.
Of course, as every student of metal history is well aware, the decades that have passed since the early 90s have spawned increasingly diverse variations on the original template, with a steadily increasing tendency of many bands to pack their music with technical acrobatics or drown it in a murky, polluted, soul-sucking atmosphere of pure evil. To find a new band who have directed their creative impulses back to the well spring is thus ironically refreshing, especially because what they’ve created is so tremendously good.
The band’s name is Unwilling Flesh, and its membership will come as a big surprise to most: It’s the brainchild and alter ego of multi-instrumentalist Andrew D’Cagna, who is better known for his work in such groups as Brimstone Coven, Obsequiae, Nechochwen, and Infirmary. It turns out that he, too, harbors a love for Swedish death metal. Fueled by inspiration from such old-school progenitors as Carnage, Eucharist, and Excretion, he has created an album under the Unwilling Flesh moniker entitled Between the Living and the Dead that’s due for release by Eihwaz Recordings (the sister label of Bindrune Recordings).
D’Cagna provides the vocals and performs all the instruments on the album, with top-shelf assistance in the lead-guitar work furnished by his Nechochwen and Infirmary bandmate Aaron Carey. Together they’ve recorded a rock-solid homage to old-school Swedish death metal that’s as immediately catchy and highly memorable as it is vicious and morbid.
Among the album’s many signal achievements, I have to first mention D’Cagna’s success in duplicating one absolutely vital ingredient: He’s nailed that crushing, crunching, chainsaw guitar tone that became the hallmark of the Sunlight Studios sound. And he’s married it to a potent phalanx of riffs — from massive freight-train chugs calculated to induce neck spasms, to grinding tank attacks, to jackhammer jabs, to adrenaline-fueled gallops. And the varying drum and bass rhythms have been expertly attuned to provide just the right accompaniment in what is undeniably a guitar-centric album.
But guitar tone and even riff mastery do not alone make for an album as fine and faithful as this one. D’Cagna has also written actual songs, with distinctive melodies of the kind that still make the songs on Slaughter of the Soul command such strong allegiance almost 20 years after its debut. They’re more ghoulish and morbid than they are pretty, that’s for sure, but they’re very effective at digging their hooks into your head and holding fast.
The Unwilling Flesh recipe for success includes two more key ingredients: Every song features dynamic guitar solos, and many of them are enlivened by compelling dual guitar harmonies, with a clean, reverberating tone that contrasts effectively with the gargantuan sound of the riffing. Whether slithering like serpents, shimmering like poltergeists, or exploding like fireworks, they’re really well done.
And finally, the aggressiveness of the mainly up-tempo music is further enhanced by D’Cagna’s deep, gruff growls, which are vibrant as well as utterly bestial.
Between the Living and the Dead breaks no molds — and that’s the point: It’s intended to honor a highly distinctive style of music with complete faithfulness and dedication to the undead spirit of the form. And in that mission, it succeeds admirably.
The album is scheduled for release on September 30th, 2014, via Eihwaz Recordings, whose web site is here:
And now, check out our premiere of the album’s opening track, “Fathoms Unfound”. Below that song, you’ll also be able to hear the song that follows it on the album — “Vanquished Daylight” — which premiered last month: