Aug 252021

(Andy Synn would like to remind you all that only Death (Metal) is real)

I was doing an interview recently where I was asked “what makes a good Death Metal band?”

And, you know, for a moment I was stumped.

You see, they weren’t just asking about tuning, or tempo. Nothing so prosaic as that. They wanted something fundamental, something that transcended styles and sub-genres, something beyond technicality or brutality or melody.

But, eventually… it hit me.

It’s not about how fast you can blast, how low you can go, how huge you can groove… it’s all about love.

You heard me right. Underneath it all Death Metal is driven by love. Specifically the love of Death Metal.

And it’s the ability to convey and communicate that love, no matter what forms it takes, how technical or brutal, how melodic or symphonic, how dissonant or discordant or slam-tastic, which makes – or breaks – a band.

So let it be written, and let it be known… these three bands really love Death Metal.


After cutting their teeth on numerous splits and EPs over the last several years, the time has finally come for Italian stallions Devoid of Thought to “go big, or go home” with the release of their first full-length album, set to come out this Friday on Everlasting Spew Records.

One thing you’ll quickly notice – because opener “Perennial Dream” doesn’t take too long to settle into a heaving, heavyweight groove – is that Outer World Graves is definitely a big step up from the band’s previous material, dealing in a blend of slithering muscle and otherworldly menace reminiscent of bands like Blood Incantation, Mithras, and Zealotry… a sort of “post-Demilich, post-Deeds of Flesh” approach that marries punchy, predatory riffs, gruesome, gut-churning grooves, and tormented technicality to an eerie, unsettling atmosphere of proto-cosmic dread.

And while Devoid of Thought aren’t quite on that same level just yet, the promise and potential is clearly there right from the outset, from the relentless, rolling momentum and nerve-jangling technical twists of the aforementioned “Perennial Dream”, and the doomy, “Incantation-in-space” vibes of “Four Cerulean Ways”, to the absolutely humongous riffs and equally haunting ambience of closer “Stargrave”.

Of course, the centrepiece of the album, the eleven minute “Effigies”, has received a lot of attention already, and for good reason, as it’s a thunderously heavy, disturbingly atmospheric, and impressively ambitious composition which highlights both the band’s unabashed aggression – every riff, every blastbeat, every growl and howl, positively seethes with furious energy – and their ability to infuse their music with an overarching sense of bleak, bordering at times on “blackened”, ambience, in equal measure, while also leaving space for a dash of fret-scorching shred along the way.

Outer World Graves isn’t perfect of course – the more overtly, albeit darkly, “melodic” strains of “Sidereal Necrosis” don’t quite hit hit as hard or provide the same level of immersion as the rest of the record (though the second half of the song successfully shifts things in a more sinister, skin-crawling direction that I’d love to have heard more of), nor would I say it’s ever quite able to escape the looming shadow of its various peers and predecessors (though not for lack of trying).

But it’s still a serious and unequivocal statement of intent from a band whose music is clearly not devoid of thought… in fact, I’d go so far as to say that the obvious (and ominous) intellect behind this album means that it’s actually one which rewards careful contemplation and deep deliberation with a subtly mind-altering experience that grows and mutates with every listen.


Compared to the album above, I guess you could say that Gosudar’s debut album, Morbid Despotic Ritual, is a much grimmer, grimier affair that’s even more heavily indebted to the obnoxiously old-school style of bands like Incantation and Autopsy (especially in its denser, doomier moments).

Hell, even the album title practically screams OSDM – and, yes, the refrain of the title track is just the album title growled in gruesome, hypnotic fashion – but that doesn’t mean that the Russian trio don’t have a few of their own tricks up their sleeve too.

Take opener “Demented Visions of the Infinite Power” for example. On the one hand it clashes and clatters, bashes and batters, and just generally bludgeons its way into your cranium with pure brute force over the course of just under five minutes… but it also throws you an unexpected curveball part way through in the form of a weirdly proggy and atmospheric lead section that hints at a deeper method to the madness.

Similarly, while both “Awakening of the Realm” and “Prophecy Embodiment” up the heaviness and aggression even further – showing off some willing (and not unwelcome) Morbid Angel worship in every punishing passage of tortured tremolo and bone-rattling blastery, every chugging, crushing groove – you’ll notice, given time, that the songs themselves are subtly complex and progressive in the way they’re structured, packing in just the right amount of riffs and twists (such as the former’s transition into malevolent Death/Doom a little way after the three minute mark, or the latter’s gigantic, hook-heavy mid-section) to ensure that, no matter how familiar you become with each track, there’s always something you’ll have forgotten about left to surprise you.

It’s the second half of the record, however, where the real gold is hidden.

“Scripture of the Vile Testimony”, for example, is an absolute riff-lover’s delight from start to finish, while also giving the band’s darker, doomier inclinations room to blossom too (there’s a truly malevolent undercurrent to this track that stays with you long after the last riff has hammered its way into oblivion).

And then there’s “Insurrection of Nephilim”, which starts out as a crushing, Cannibal Corpse-style stomper, only to shift shape in its second half into something slower and more sinister during its second half, in a way that positively borders on “Blackened Doom” at times (and is all the better for it).

Climaxing with the writhing riffs and warped melodies (something which I hope to see/hear the band explore more in the future) of the title-track, Morbid Despotic Ritual is ample evidence that Gosudar don’t just love Death Metal, they live and breathe it, from their balls to their bones. But it seems pretty clear, to me at least, that they’re not just trying to relive the genre’s glory days but actively working to keep its spirit alive in the here and now. And, you know what? They’re doing a pretty damn good job of it too.


Of the three releases featured here I think this one most exemplifies what I said at the start of the article about having that obvious love of Death Metal, and being able to convey it and communicate it in every raging riff, guttural growl, and lacerating lead part.

There’s just something about this record – a sense of passion or dedication – which suggests that these guys have been absorbing the classics since the cradle (and possibly even before), to the point where they’ve now got Death Metal embedded in their DNA.

That doesn’t mean, however, that The Cosmic Pendulum of Time is just a simple tribute to a bygone age.

While the sinuous melodic leads remind me of Dismember, for example, they don’t sound in any way dated, nor do the crushing, Kataklysm-esque tremolo’d grooves and neck-wrecking chugs of songs like “Disembodied” or “Hammer of the Heretics” suggest anything more than that Typhonian really know how to deliver the goods with maximum efficiency and maximum intensity.

You even get the feeling that the band aren’t afraid of embracing some fresher – though still thrillingly fetid – influences and inspirations too, whether that’s the frantic, spiralling tremolo and frenetic, jangling discordance which permeates “Throne of Deceit”, or the jerky, stop-start rhythms which rear their ugly head(s) during the second half of “Forever In Misery”.

What you get, in the end then, is a band playing a style of Death Metal that’s neither “Old” or “New” school (and definitely not “Nu”). That’s not exactly “Modern” (a word which, let’s be frank, is pretty meaningless when you think about it for more than a few seconds) but isn’t self-consciously or self-referentially “Classic” either.

In that sense the German quintet strongly remind me of their Danish cousins in Bæst (yes, I still write it like that, it looks cooler) in that they’re making Death Metal that isn’t tied to trends, or to any one era, but embraces all of the genre’s history, discarding what it doesn’t want and incorporating whatever it needs, without feeling like they have to live up to anyone else’s standards of what is “true” or “real” along the way.

That being said, I think even the most jaded and/or cynical members of “the scene” will be hard pressed to deny the brilliance of the climactic title track, which comes bursting out of the speakers with an energy and an intensity, not to mention an aura of mind-spinning melodic majesty, that goes above and beyond what the rest of the record has to offer, leaving you with the tantalising sense that the best is yet to come from Typhonian.


  1. been waiting on that Devoid of thought release. Well its this friday so thats great! and how the hell did i sleep on Gosudar? this is good!!

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