AN NCS ALBUM PREMIERE (AND A REVIEW): MACERATION — “IT NEVER ENDS…”
It is with considerable pride and pleasure that we present a complete stream of It Never Ends…, a new album by the Danish band Maceration — pride, because this marks the return of a group who made a heavy mark in the old annals of death metal with their 1992 debut A Serenade of Agony, and pleasure, because the new second album is really fucking good.
In a time when metal re-births seem increasingly common, the resurrection of Maceration after three decades still seems worth an extra measure of attention, in part because for their new album Dan Swanö has again stepped in to fill the session vocal role, as he did under the name Day Disyraa for that 1992 debut. He hasn’t done growled vocals since the halcyon days of Edge of Sanity, but you couldn’t guess that from his performance here. His monstrous growls, ravenous howls, and wretched gagging emissions are frighteningly powerful throughout.
But as vital as those vocals are to the success of It Never Ends…, it is of course the quality of the songwriting and musicianship that weighs most heavily in the balance between success and failure, and there the credit goes to original guitarists Jakob Schultz and Lars Bangsholt, bassist Robert Tengs, and drummer Rasmus Schmidt (Illdisposed, ex-Myrkur).
photo by Carsten Horsted
Collectively, those four do a lot of things very well. We’ve previously commented on the grim and gruesome impact of the album’s lead single, “Epiphany of the Past“. There, the heaving chords are dire and dismal at first, and then there’s a convulsion of circle-saw riff-madness and bullet-spitting percussion. The music still sounds like illness, but it’s a disease spreading at the pace of contagion. On top of that, the song includes a freakishly weird and warping solo to go along with guitars that sound like a huge mass of squirming and feeding maggots, or alternately like a gouging and grinding demolition machine.
But one of the album’s strengths is in the songwriting variations that emerge as you make your way through it. For example, “Lost In Depravity” (the second single and the album opener) opens with a haunting piano melody, and even when the full band arrive the mid-paced music is steeped in sensations of oppressiveness and agony. But madness escapes the confines of sanity in the song as well, when a quivering solo leads into galloping drums and dense HM-2-powered riffage that grinds and roils with increasingly lunatic energy. Swanö‘s vocals are again monstrous, and there’s a temptation to roar the song’s title refrain right along with him.
An atmosphere of vast, hideous majesty also rises up within “Epiphany” whenever the band circle back to its grim opening sequence, augmented by something like the sound of celestial voices crying out in fear. In that way it becomes a grand anthem to shattered minds.
photo by Carsten Horsted
To take one more specific example of the band’s songwriting prowess, the third single “Arcane Secrets” is an absolutely vicious onslaught. As Dan Swanö imperiously and intelligibly expels the bleak and terrifying lyrics, the band behind him discharge massive marauding riffs, demented and delirious leads, spitfire soloing, and variable drumming that races and chops like an axe. Both crazed and coldly cruel, the song is the kind of swift, feral romp that stirs circle pits into a froth.
One thing that becomes abundantly apparent from just these previously released singles is how fervently and adoringly Maceration have returned to the roots of ghastly and grisly Swedish death metal. The album title itself seems to proclaim both the deathless nature of the style and the extent of the band’s inner devotion to it.
Another thing that’s very clear is the extent of Maceration‘s fiendish talent for cooking up riffs that are big ear-worms, or sharp hooks (choose your poison), and bringing them into play with songs driven by dynamism and fueled by adrenaline. Even though the humongous buzzing riffage within the title track (to pick another example) seems to straddle a line between despair and derangement, it’s a grim musical expression of endless suffering that gets stuck in the head damned fast, even as it pounds and punishes.
So too does the mad pulse of the core riff in “Engulfed In Agony”, which is also home to a pair of sorcerous solos — and it eventually towers like some hideous black monolith. Even the brutish and suffocating impact of “Tender Twigs of Innocence” is hard to forget, as are the threads of utterly stricken and hopeless melody woven through the song.
Before leaving you to the music, we also want to pay a big compliment both to the drumming, which is precisely calculated to match the changing moods and momentum of the music and to keep pulses jumping with electrifying fills, and also to the production, which makes the sound truly massive and yet also renders it with the kind of evenness and clarity that enhances the knife-like penetration of the music without diminishing its pulverizing and necrotic power.
Straight through the closing track “Monolith of the Cursed”, the album as a whole proves to be a monolith of the cursed, a beautifully crafted and expertly rendered monument to crushing and crazed Swedish-style death metal from the dankest and darkest crypts, where no life is welcome but where convincing proof is provided that in the right hands this old genre is indeed deathless.
It Never Ends… was produced, mixed, and mastered by Mr. Swanö, and it also includes performances by the band’s live vocalist Jan Bergmann Jepsen (ex-Cor Vacante), who contributed vocals together with Swanö‘s on the title track and on the song “Tender Twigs Of Innocence”.
The album is set for release by Emanzipation Productions on November 25th. The fantastically grotesque cover art was made by the great Ola Larsson. All the links you need are below, and we’ve also included the videos for those first three singles discussed above.
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Really cool singles. Thanks for sharing.
But if I recall correctly, Dan did the vocals for Witherscape, so it’s not been such a long time