Sep 072022

(Our man DGR prepared the following review of a long-awaited debut album by NY-based Castrator, which is out now on the Dark Descent label.)

This is one that’s been hovering in the periphery for some time now, so it’s good to have the chance to finally dive into it.

Castrator are a project we’ve been watching for a while around these here parts. Although their activities have had long quiet periods – including those within this site’s general lifespan – there was never a sense that the group had split. The 2015 No Victim release has always lurked somewhere just off the purview but within sight, in part because the members of this particular death metal project were in so many bands that we have crossed paths with. For instance, their bassist R.M has time spent in both Derkéta and Gruesome.

In the timeframe between No Victim and the group’s newest album Defiled In Oblivion – released at the tail end of July – Castrator‘s lineup has changed somewhat, localizing its musicians a bit closer, but there is no question about it when it comes to the music. Castrator‘s death metal bona fides are fully realized, and the ten rumbling songs here – nine originals and one tackling of Venom‘s “Countess Bathory” – are demonstrations of that fact time and time again.

There are a few things that Castrator love to drop into at every opportunity, one of which is the guitar bombing run. As if straight out of a war movie soundtrack, the bombing run on guitar is like a death metal classic every time it cuts its way through each song. A healthy majority of these songs pull from that particular musical trope, and you’ll spot it getting a major spotlight in songs like “Befoul My Existence” and “Voices Of Evirato”. The guitar serves as a flame thrower in those songs (to mix the metaphors) and you’ll probably get lit aflame more than your fair share in those particular tracks.

The extremely scrappy “Inquisition Sins” in between those two has its fair share of it as well, but is constructed more around a thrashier riff in its opening and a relentless drum assault. “Inquisition Sins” is one of several songs within Defiled In Oblivion that are built for the mosh pit. The pairing of “Fosaken and Deprived” and “Sinister Mind” later on in the album could easily be the other two, especially if you’re a big fan of the oft-vaunted chainsaw guitar tone in death metal, because it’s really evident throughout “Sinister Mind”.

“Sinister Mind” is also another fight-worthy and scrappy song here, tightening its grip around the songwriting method and allowing no room for musical exploration. It’s just a handful of parts woven together with no breathing room, equipped for a surgical strike and wrapping up just as Castrator clear the three-minute mark.

Castrator do stretch their legs a bit for the longer songs on Defiled In Oblivion. A large core of their sound is an earth-moving groove, so they’re very comfortable in a marathon level of rhythmic chugging to go alongside each and every cutting lead segment. This is where the low-end really gets to kick in, and often the bass guitar and drum section of Castrator are driving that forward – though “driving” is a polite turn of phrase for an experience that feels more like having cinder blocks fired at you from a cannon.

Any time on Defiled In Oblivion that you spot a song clearing the four-minute mark you’re guaranteed at least one or two ventures into the caveman-smashing-rocks level of death metal. It is sheer brutality but done with the ear for the current old school death metal revival.

The two hybridize well throughout Castrator‘s full-length and that’s why more often than not it is easier to just use “death metal” as an umbrella term because sub-genre-dizing it to a pulp is a waste. You recognize what’s happening here very early on.

Defiled In Oblivion stays firmly rooted in the death metal camp. There are a half-million-plus subgenres to the death metal world, since heavy metal lends itself so well to prefix-tagging in genre descriptors, but Defiled In Oblivion doesn’t really stray down any of those particular paths. It never goes overwhelmingly bombastic, doesn’t lean into the constant skull-battering that most brutal death leans into, and in terms of its bass-heavy tone and low-end-dwelling guitars, doesn’t shoot anywhere close for a ‘clean’ production styling.

Castrator are competent in sewage-dwelling death metal full of groove and cavernous riffing. The album travels in the well-worn classical death metal stylings minus much of the gore obsession. It’s built around heaviness; in terms of being monolithic and lumbering, the songs here have some heft to them. Castrator construct their songs around that solid and heavy core, and they often have no business with fanciness or trimmings, tossing that stuff aside in favor of another opportunity to rumble and roar.

Since its musicians are well-versed in the hollowing-the-planet style of death metal, Castrator show time and time again on Defiled In Oblivion that they are well-capable of wielding heavy weaponry and they make the most of the opportunities the album affords.

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