(Andy Synn presents three bite-sized morsels of brutality that you may have missed this month)
After my spectacular failure at keeping up with the various short-form releases which came out last year (ultimately having to relegate my coverage to most of the EPs, splits, etc, from 2022 to the end of year round-up instead) I made a vow to myself to stay more on top of things this year.
Obviously this hasn’t happened but… here’s three you may have missed from February that I didn’t want to wait until December to write about!
CROWN OF MADNESS – ELEMENTAL BINDING
While genre terms can be a very useful tool, there are times where they fall short.
Case in point, Crown of Madness could be (and have been, by various outlets) described as “Technical”, “Melodic”, “Dissonant”, and “Progressive” Death Metal… and while it’s not impossible for any band to cover all these bases by any means (in fact, I’d go so far as to say that CoM do a fantastic job at finding and riding the through line between all these different sub-genres with aplomb) describing them as “Progressive Melodic Dissonant Technical Death Metal” isn’t really helpful (and is one hell of a mouthful).
Perhaps a few pointers and comparisons would be more useful instead? For example, opener “Immortal Eyes” hits a sweet spot right between Arsis and Inanimate Existence, albeit with a slightly harder, and significantly darker, edge, while “A Wrenching Nostalgia” fuses the fluid dissonance of Ulcerate, Karmacipher, etc, with the bombastic bounce ‘n’ blast of Allegaeon,
And then, to complicate matters further, “Roots, Limbs and Sky” adds a healthy dose of “Blackened” intensity to the band’s already heavy-laden grab-bag of genre elements, only for “Vile Sun” to then switch things to a more “Post-” or “Atmospheric” Death Metal track.
But, somehow, Elemental Binding, still holds together, despite covering an awful lot of ground, and it’s to the duo’s credit that they’ve woven all these influences and inspirations together into such a cohesive whole.
TORN IN HALF – CRAWLING FROM THE ABYSS
The second EP from Boston brutalisers Torn in Half is five tracks of disgusting(ly good) Death Metal, each one absolutely dripping with slime in all the right places, but sharp enough to cut through the grime when needed, all topped off with some of the most brutish and bowel-loosening vocals you’re likely to have heard this year.
The riffs are, as you’ll quickly discover, absolutely massive, possessing a palpable sense of weight that makes the whole EP seem to get physically heavier as it goes on, while also being liberally laced with nasty hooks and just the right amount of dirty melody.
And then there’s the drums, which show off both some eye-opening speed (such as during the monstrous “Tomb Juice”) and a knack for gruesome groove (neck-wrecking closer “Comfort of a Coffin”) as well as an impressive ability to shift gear and accelerate, or decelerate (the gut-churning climax to “Dead or Severely Injured” being a prime example), on a dime.
Perhaps the most disgusting thing about this EP, however, is the fact that it’s not being talked about in the same breath as many of the bigger and more (over-)hyped bands in the current phase of the never-ending Death Metal revival – Undeath, 200 Stab Wounds, Frozen Soul, etc – because they definitely deserve to be.
VAMPIRE SQUID – PLASMIC
Brutal Progressive Math Tech Death-Grinders Vampire Squid are another band who have, over the years, covered so much ground it’s made them hard to pin down (though I tried my best in this edition of The Synn Report).
Hell, the band openly admitted to this in the lead up to Plasmic, stating that – this time around – they’d opted to streamline and simplify their sound (a relative term, as you’re about to find out) for the foreseeable future, with the four tracks which make up this EP being our first glimpse at the next phase of the band’s (d)evolution.
While still showing off some twisted, finger-rupturing riffs across the course of this EP, the band’s latest batch of sonic savagery leans much much harder on the “Brutal” and “Grind” sides of their sound, sacrificing the more outlandish and unpredictable parts of their previous output in favour of an uglier, heavier, and arguably even more aggressive approach more closely aligned with the likes of Skinless, Benighted, and Aborted at their most feral and unforgiving.
There’s still a few flashes of their usual strangeness here and there – both in some of the odd note patterns that flitter through “Wormholes Collide” and the eerie pseudo-symphonics which surface during “Lurking Mystic” – but for the most part the band’s newfound focus on churning out some of the chunkiest, chuggiest, ugliest Death Metal of their career seems to have given them a whole new lease on life.
The Vampire Squid one is fire.