(Andy Synn delivers three reviews for three very strong new albums — with accompanying full-album streams.)
Let me level with you. At the start of 2014 I was convinced that this was going to be Black Metal’s year. There have been so many frankly awesome albums from across the kvlt-spectrum, from the Post- to the Progressive to the Necro, that, in truth, I just didn’t see how Death Metal was going to keep up.
But as the months have ticked by I’ve seen a slow and steady resurgence from the DM crowd. From the progressive wizardry of bands like Allegaeon and Beyond Creation to the shameless brutality of Aborted and Beneath… from the old-school ugliness of Cannibal Corpse and Vader, to the megaton grooves of modern legends like Misery Index and Decapitated… it’s been an incredible fight back… and that’s without even mentioning the wealth of underground and underappreciated deathsters toiling away in relative obscurity!
Now, since I’ve been so busy over the last couple of months, there’s been a number of recent releases I’ve simply not had the chance to celebrate properly. Which upsets me. On a deep and fundamental level. And this simply will not stand.
So, to compensate, here’s three albums, arranged in order of release and all available to stream right now, that have been making the tail-end of 2014 a darker, deathlier place for me!
EMETH – AETHYR
Easily the most outright aggressive and stunningly brutal album of the three presented here, Synn Report alumni Emeth dropped their fourth album Aethyr back at the end of September, and let me tell you… it is one utterly rabid collection of barely restrained musical savagery, mixing elements of Brutal Death Metal, Tech-Death, Grindcore, Deathcore, along with a wealth of weird, progressive contortions, into one seethingly psychotic album.
The demonic introduction of “I Became Flesh and Dwelleth Among Thee” is soon overwhelmed by a tsunami of frenzied drums, hacking, heaving riffs, and frothing, bestial vocals, the song smashing together elements of grind, groove, and prog into one utterly visceral expurgation of ravenous rage and convulsive energy, marked by moments of pure bat-shit insanity and crushing Deathcore intensity.
Guitarists Matty Dupont and Alan Rawson are true masters of the fretboard, flinging out their lacerating riffs and proggy, spiralling solos almost without conscious thought, whether it’s on the eerily and unexpectedly melodic “Exterminate the Vacillating” (which sounds like a meth-fuelled knife-fight between Carcass, Dream Theater, and Morbid Angel), or the album’s merciless title track where, combined with drummer Nico Veroeven’s frankly ungodly performance behind the kit, the band reach near Cattle Decapitation levels of murderous hysteria – albeit, with a more technical and warped progressive bent.
The angular and abrasive “Suffering Comes With Thy Name” starts off as… I don’t know, progressive grindcore…? before mutating into something more focused and Aborted-like, frontman Boris Corenlissen vomiting up his vocals from the deepest pit of hell atop a cataclysmic cavalcade of sick, sadistic riffage and foul, choking bass-lines (courtesy of low-end lunatic Pat de Jonge).
“Eidolons of Ash” is one of the most mercilessly precise pieces of Extreme Tech-Death that I’ve heard all year, its nimble bass lines, needle-sharp riffs and scattershot drum-work twisting and writhing somewhere between agony and ecstasy for just over 4 minutes of pure aural punishment, while follow-up “The Hour of the Great Contempt” bolsters its techtastic embellishments with an undercurrent of lumbering, Suffocation-esque Death Metal ground and pound.
“Wrath Upon The Cursed” is, perhaps, one of the single heaviest and most extreme pieces of Death Metal I’ve encountered in recent years, as if someone interbred members of Cannibal Corpse and Anaal Nathrakh and then raised the offspring on a steady diet of snuff films and screaming dissonance, its crippling grooves and monumental heaviness randomly exploding into unfettered chaos and confusion.
Cannibalistic closer “Serpents Walk As If Human” is the perfect summation to the album, and perfectly captures the band’s unique brand of Progressive Technical Brutal Death Grindcore, layering on violent riff after violent riff after roiling bass-line after gatling-gun drum blast… until the whole thing simply becomes too dense to support its own weight, and collapses in on itself in one final implosive convulsion of mindless rage and fury.
Make no mistake, this album is a nasty piece of work. It’s harshly dissonant and terrifyingly aggressive. It’s mind-bendingly technical and stunningly heavy. It’s warped and strange and at times overwhelming.
And it’s by far the best thing the band have ever done.
ABYSMAL DAWN – OBSOLESCENCE
Right up there with Misery Index and Decapitated in terms of delivering punishing, pounding Death Metal grooves, Abysmal Dawn’s fourth album (released just last week) is an effortless melding of pneumatic drum work, ballistic riffage, and laser-guided technicality, overlain with a bloody coating of nihilistic rage and fury.
From the moment annihilating opener “Human Obsolescence” erupts out of the speakers, driven by Scott Fuller’s inhuman drumming prowess and the tormented tag-team Death Metal riffage of Charles Elliott and Andy Nelson, it’s clear that Abysmal Dawn have held nothing back on this album.
“Perfecting Slavery” melds twisted technicality and pummelling grooves with biomechanical fury, chugging and growling and shredding and grinding with maximum intensity, before the rolling demolition of “Inanimate” stomps and pounds the listener into the dirt with its relentless, juddering grooves, while also adding a touch of The Negation-era Decapitated to its arsenal of pummelling riffs and maddening hooks in the later stages of the song.
This pattern of churning, tumultuous riffage and impeccably precise, apocalyptically heavy drum-work – married to Charles Elliott’s demonic, blast-furnace vocals — continues through the rest of the album’s 9 scorching songs, from the lunatic assault of “Devouring The Essence of God”, to the scorched and blackened visage of “Loathed In Life – Praised In Death”, to the malevolent melody lines and feverish extremity which plague “By My Demons”.
By the time catastrophic closer “The Inevitable Return To Darkness” rolls over you – all visceral blast-beats, screeching disharmonic riffs, and crackling, electrified solos — you’ll have been bludgeoned, pulverized, scalded, and scarred by so many riffs… so many brutal, technical, tortured riffs… that you might well be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s just that unrelenting and uncompromising an album.
Mechanised and misanthropic, Obsolescence is a cybernetic death metal organism of unstoppable power, a relentless, remorseless, killing machine which knows neither mercy nor weakness.
JOB FOR A COWBOY – SUN EATER
The struggle for credibility and acceptance by the Death Metal elite has been a long and arduous one for Job For A Cowboy. Their Deathcore roots and that name certainly tend to prompt a rather knee-jerk reaction from a certain section of the Death Metal community, despite the fact that the band’s purposeful progression from internet darlings to legitimate contenders has been an absolute joy to behold.
But Sun Eater might just be the album to change a few minds.
The band’s new album sees them taking some big leaps, and some big risks, with their sound, going proggier and more melodic overall, without pandering to notions of popularity and accessibility. That’s not to say it doesn’t absolutely crush when it wants to – this is still an honest-to-Satan Death Metal record, right down to its ravenous, nihilistic core – it’s just that it’s now more intricate, more layered, and more expansive in its vision, than ever before.
The twin-pairing of “Eating the Visions of God” and “Sun of Nihility” immediately make clear how much JFAC have developed in the years since Demonocracy, with a heavier emphasis on progressive mood and mutated melody, resulting in 12 minutes of bleeding malice that slowly unfurl and expand into something truly monstrous and unexpected.
It’s obvious just from these two tracks that bassist Nick Schendziolos is the album’s MVP this time around, his slithering, serpentine bass lines taking pride of ownership on almost every song, adding new facets of insidious melody and brooding depth to the band’s sound.
That being said, the intricate and impulsive drum work of drummer Danny Walker (taking time out from his work in Intronaut to bring his invigorating style to JFAC’s particular brand of deathly delights) isn’t far behind, his flickering fills, clever rhythmic twists, and searing salvos of blasting intensity adding a new dimension to the album and accentuating the dark, progressive flair of the songs.
The razor-sharp guitar work of Tony Sannicandro and Al Glassman continues to be utterly lethal, whether hammering out the bone-melting riffs of “The Stone Cross” and “A Global Shift”, or lacing songs like “The Synthetic Sea” and “Buried Monuments” with poisonous threads of cyanide melody. Both men bring their absolute best to the album, and the guitar work shines through as some of the best I’ve heard all year – brutal and aggressive, yet cerebral and progressive at the same time.
On top of all this, Jonny Davy continues to prove his mettle as one of modern Death Metal’s most blistering vocalists. Whether unleashing his agonizing, anguished screams, or delving deep within to dredge up a morass of guttural horror – or, more frequently, doing both, as on the crawling, doom-laden “Worming Nightfall” — he delivers every line with chilling clarity and utterly caustic conviction.
Some reviews have stated that this album sounds “like a whole new band”. Those reviews are wrong.
It still sounds like the same band… but it’s the sound of that band entering a whole new phase of their existence.