(NCS scribe DGR is catching up after a long hiatus, with a multi-part collection of reviews of 2019 releases, beginning with this one.)
At one point I half-joked with myself that I’d call this column ‘with apologies’. This is due in part to the happening-more-often-than-not real life occurrences taking over my internet-writing time and resulting in missed self-imposed deadline after self-imposed deadline. In fact what you’re seeing right now is only ‘part one’ of this review roundup rather than everything at once, to protect the sanity of both your beloved writer and our beloved editor.
I keep a long running list of albums I’ve been meaning to review, stuff to look at, stuff I think our readers will find interesting, and so-forth, but as mentioned, there was a whole lot of falling behind as life just seemed to cascade one unfortunate event after another in an attempt to crush me. Long story short, by the end of the crushing I wound up with one fewer pet and became a new homeowner, with a whole bunch of bullshit in between. And so in that sense, I feel like there are apologies due not only for the lateness but also for the multiple re-writes that happened behind the scenes as I attempted to shake the rust off of what was essentially two months of exile.
That doesn’t mean music discovery and listening stopped. In fact that was an ongoing activity, and so this archive in all of its Parts covers a wide swath of the year, from January right up to stuff that came out just a few days ago. The same goes for genres and locations, because if there’s anything I do enjoy it’s traveling the world of heavy metal. The world doesn’t stop and wait for us to play catch-up, though, and right now is just as good a time as any to begin again, so if you’ll indulge me doing much shorter reviews than usual, here we go….
Murder Made God – Endless Return
Greece’s Murder Made God write the sort of groove-heavy death metal with nary a guitar lead in sight that basically eschews every option presented to them in the world in favor of punching things. Everything remains largely unchanged about the group on their newest album Endless Return, in comparison to its predecessor Enslaved. And that goes for just about every aspect of the band, including members, songwriting style, and number of songs on the disc. Were it not for the briefest of adventuristic moments for the group, the run-time would be similar as well. As it stands, thanks to some ambient intros in certain songs and one epic-length track (for Murder Made God at least), Endless Return is about eight minutes longer.
Everything is fully in their comfort zone, and much like Enslaved before it, Endless Return is a solid death metal album if your two primary distinctions for brutality are ‘big’ and ‘brawny’. Murder Made God remain absolutely relentless throughout much of the album, with the guitarist and bassist combo of Dennis and Stelios rapidly firing off many a rhythmic riff ending in multiple stop/start dynamics and other segments ending in multiple bouncing thuds that signify the end of particular sections. Drummer Tolis B. supports the assault from behind a kit that remains steadily blasting throughout, providing the band with a solid and constantly rumbling foundation for the entirety of Endless Return.
What all this results in is the sort of album that can be just as good as a single solid run as it is a handful of songs taken one at a time. since the dynamic throughout remains about as subtle as being struck by a bus. The middle section of “Trials and Enemies”, “Cognitive Disonance”, and “A Final Conflict” remain an extra sort of fun, if only because the songs have some extra weight to them in terms of run-time. By and large, though, you’ll know rather quickly what sort of album Murder Made God have dished out this time around, because moment one doesn’t differ all too much from moment thirty-nine. It’s just that there might be a lot of things around you that will have been punched in the interim.
Apostate – At The Tomb Of Sanity
It’s not too often I get to pull one by our resident Brit – especially since he has his own column celebrating his own discoveries in his local underground scene – yet I feel like I’ve watched multiple ‘Best Of British’ series sail by with no mention of Death metal group Apostate.
When I mentioned in the opening bit that there were some bands I felt NCS readers would be very interested in, Britain’s Apostate was one group I had in mind. They dish out overtly technical music with a multitude of old school flavorings that lean heavily on the brutality, and could’ve easily landed them in the same playground of Suffocation and Dying Fetus, with a vocalist who could challenge some of the Florida crew in a battle of lows. Their debut album At The Tomb Of Sanity hit in February and yet were only a recent discovery for yours truly.
At The Tomb Of Sanity is one big, throaty yell packed into a little under thirty-three minutes, heavy on death metal’s penchant for bludgeoning its listener into dust and with riffs as knife-edged in the mix and yet complicated enough to sound as murky as a sewer. In fact there is really only one moment of respite in the whole affair and it shows up in the deepest reaches of the album’s back third in the form of an acoustic number entitled “Revelation”. It is 100% a welcome moment as well, because otherwise At The Tomb Of Sanity is one bestial yell after another.
Hell, the two songs bookending it in the back bit of the album are different permutations of near-relentlessness, with its immediate follower “The Spiteful King” feeling like a ceaseless multi-pronged vocal attack barely held together by braindead-chugging that rapidly gives way to a drummer pushing the song ever forward. “Banished And Deformed” – the predecessor to said acoustic bit – gets so crazy at times that it even seems like the band are happily lost within its maelstrom. To add to that, much of At The Tomb Of Sanity throws its weight around in much the same fashion, even in its closing Decapitated cover.
At The Tomb Of Sanity can have problems at times remaining ‘distinct’, but if you’re in the mood to just be bludgeoned for a little over a half-hour, then Apostate crush that objective with ease.
Distaste – Deibel
One of the bands that we have continuously waved the flag for over the years is Austrian grind group Distaste, and the recent release of their latest full-length Deibel is absolutely welcome in these halls. Since starting to follow them we’ve watched as the group have evolved from a three-piece, blastbeat-driven, circle-pit-style deathgrind band to a… uh….four-piece blastbeat-driven, circle-pit-heavy deathgrind group — but one that seems to have gotten a hell of a lot meaner.
Beginning with their 2017 EP Todt that saw some members of the band changing positions from drums to guitar and so forth, Distaste have honed in on a multi-directional vocal attack with a non-stop writing style and a guitar tone that has the band unleashing a sound that is absolutely vicious. Deibel is exactly what I want from this branch of grind, near-relentless drumming and non-stop guitar that seems to tear the Earth asunder. A vocal attack that never lets up and songs ranging anywhere between fifty seconds to nearly-four minutes and plenty of reasons to commit violence on each other within each one. That translates to plenty of apocalyptic bombing runs upon which to feast, and enough pit-riffage — especially in the song ‘Gesagt, getan’ — to plan workout routines too.
‘Wermutstropfen’, later in the tracklisting, even gets a little death metal at times, with vocalist/guitarist Armin Schweiger tearing his throat raw with some ear-shredding highs for a brief minute before the song settles into a pretty fucking hefty groove to close out its minute or so. The opening assault of Deibel is almost non-stop as well, with its first four tracks effectively sounding like one continous dishing of hellfire until the aforementioned ‘Gesagt, getal’ clocks in as the first of a sparing few that reach over three minutes.
In fact, a song like ‘Parlamentarische Pleonexie’ feels like it deserves mention in its own right for being something of a “slow” song in the face of the endless blasting by which Distate define themselves. Even then, it becomes an apocalyptic death metal track to close out these affairs.
Deibel is a fantastic release and a great way to make thirty minutes fly by like absolutely nothing, fueled by nothing but sheer adrenaline by the time you reach its closing songs.