(Yesterday DGR turned in a double-review, but in his own inimitable fashion he wrote so many words about each of the two albums — one by Berzerker Legion and one by Wombbath — that your humble editor decided to split it in two, and now we present the second one. It may make some sense to read the other review first (here), since these were originally packaged together.)
Over the many years that we’ve spent in our comfortable little corner of the internet, one of the things we’ve learned how to get real good at is identifying genre-fare: the sort of musical red meat where it is clear the crew behind them just want to add to the overall cauldron that is their music of choice. Not necessarily the most ambitious or ‘paradigm changing’ — though the times where a group lands on that sort of lightning-in-a-bottle formula is always great — but music that is enjoyable for what it is, well-executed within the blueprint of its chosen genre.
One of the examples of this which practically fuels this website is the sort of rock-stupid, pulsating thud of death metal that gets by purely by appealing to the early cave-dweller parts of our brain, and another is the type of music that is so predisposed to headbanging guitar work that you can’t help but want to tag along, whether or not you have the long hair for it.
In this case it’s weird that these two albums feel like catching up a bit, since these two projects share a vocalist whom we’ve written about numerous times before and both of them are right in that wheelhouse described above. One is more modern and melody-focused despite its overall insistence on how world-ending it paints its protagonists in the songs, and the other is flavored with apocalyptic flair but with the chainsaw guitar aimed at a more old-school crowd. And thus we find ourselves catching up with Berzerker Legion and a crew more familiar to our site’s readers, Wombbath.
WOMBBATH: “CHOIRS OF THE FALLEN”
Now, take all of the previously-written-about album (by Berzerker Legion) and drench it in a layer of apocalyptic filth, exchange the glorious gallop of battle for the consistent thud of some death and roll, and force those guitars through a filter of chainsaw distortion — and you arrive at the doorstep of Wombbath’s early March release, Choirs Of The Fallen.
Although Wombbath have a long history with an extended hiatus in the center of it, the group’s current incarnation has only been releasing albums again since 2015, and Choirs Of The Fallen marks the third in that line. Arriving a little under two years after the group’s previous release The Great Desolation, Choirs Of The Fallen keeps Wombbath’s reputation as one of the consistent go-to’s for this branch of heavy metal firmly intact. The songs emanate from the abyss but are heavily focused on shifting between headbanging groove, caveman-level death metal brutality, and the occasional punchy percussive section meant to feel like the band itself are hammering you in the chest, and then they rotate back again. This may be one of the least-pretentious death metal albums out there right now, and sometimes it’s okay to admit that and embrace it for the sort of musical food that it is. If Berzerker Legion are the oncoming horde of Armageddon, then Wombbath cast themselves as the swamp monsters slowly creeping ashore.
It’s not often you get to discuss the ‘language’ of music, but late in Choirs Of The Fallen there is one particular section, at the halfway mark of the song “Wings Of Horror”, in which the band drop into one of the dumbest chainsaw death metal pit sections out there. It’s during one of the few segments in which there’s actually a very distinct lead guitar present on the album — quietly plucking away at a haunting and echoing melody. For the most part, Choirs Of The Fallen is one heavy and violent rhythm section after another, recorded to sound like the band were in a chasm with one guitarist much closer than the rest. At the three-minute and ten-second mark of “Wings Of Horror”, the band drop into the aforementioned death metal pit section, and if you’ve been listening to a lot of this genre you almost instantly recognize exactly where the band will be going.
The propulsive one-two, one-two movement with a heavily distorted guitar buzzing over it is one of the most common movements in this style of music and thus it communicates more than just a certain movement in a song, and is also a signal that “this is where you all run in circles and mosh”. You could hear it live without having ever crossed paths with Wombbath before and know exactly what is going to happen. And what follows is a very specific blueprint from which Wombbath have made their current career. It is music built out of a very common death metal language, and Choirs Of The Fallen makes no attempt to fix what ain’t broken. It’s a whole disc composed of that.
With any notion of pretense out of the way, Choirs Of The Fallen absolutely contains some solid face-grinders in its mix. It’s probably playing to the cheap seats, but naming a song “A Sweet Taste Of Death” pretty much guarantees it is going to stick out, and Wombbath sound monstrous during it. It’s a percussive track at first, with some extra-deep bellowing in its opening segments to help propel things along, before the band slow it down a bit for the chorus segment.
“Crawling From The Pits” is another early-album highlight in an eerily similar vein, but one that actually colors a lot more of the album than you might realize. While it seem like Wombbath lay out their hand early on with the no-bullshit hammering of “Fallen”, “Crawling From The Pits” is a tiny-bit loftier in its ambitions, as it fully builds up the sort of echoing atmosphere that runs through much of Chorus Of The Fallen, slowly swinging itself back and forth before the band make Jonny Pettersson scream himself hoarse at about a minute and a half in.
“In A Cloak Of Anger” initially seems like it is going to be one of the slower death metal stomp songs to send Choirs Of The Fallen toward its conclusion, but the disc actually fades away — guided out by a solid battering on the double-bass drum and another eerie guitar segment. There’s nothing gorgeous or glorious about the handful of times the group take advantage of its two guitarists — when they shift from burying the listener in distortion, it’s always to some sort of eerie and haunting melody that sounds like it is also barely hanging onto the song it is a part of.
While the crew behind Wombbath remains ever-changing — the band has changed over three members in between 2018’s The Great Desolation and now — the one thing that remains constant is the altar of death that is their chosen sound worship. Choirs Of The Fallen only adds to the tribute they have been laying at its feet, a near fifty-minute brick of death metal perfectly content to speak a common musical tongue and pull no punches in the process.
Like much of the group’s discography, and even how they come across live, you’ll instantly recognize why the band are appealing to your brain in the way they do. They know that you recognize the power in the constant thud emanating from the percussion section that drives so many of the songs and they’re more than happy to provide it to you on Choirs Of The Fallen. While your mileage may vary on a whole fifty minutes of it, there’s definitely going to be more than a handful of moments where you’ll find yourself nodding along to it, and then being just as instantly surprised that the group have figured how to get to you so easily.