Jun 092023

(We’re nearing the end of a long string of reviews DGR prepared in advance of his travels to Seattle for Northwest Terror Fest, and in this one he talks about a new album by the Japanese band Kruelty that was released in March by Profound Lore Records.)

At some point we’re going to have to come up with some sort of clever portmanteau to describe the level of ‘stupid’ that takes place within the scraping-hands-on-ground style of music that is working its way through the current death metal scene, and is especially present on the latest album Untopia from Japan’s Kruelty.

The best we’ve come up with so far is ‘Ridicudumb’ but it feels like three syllables too many for the type of low-end rumbling, brain-turned-to-jelly style of music that is happening here. You start to feel a little like Tom Hardy in Mad Max: Fury Road, pointing out of the car and declaring ‘that’s bait’ after instantly recognizing the situation around him. So too, can you listen to something like Kruelty‘s Untopia and know near-exactly what the hell it is aspiring to do within the first two minutes as the drums settle in to the solid and consistent groove that forms the backbone of death metal like this.

We’ve been to many a show where the vocalist has proclaimed to the crowd at one point or another that ‘now is your chance to hurt somebody!’. Kruelty’s Untopia is written to be just like that; it is an album that has set out for the sole purpose of hurting somebody.

photo by Seijiro Nishimi

Put bluntly; Untopia is an endless series of mosh calls. That there is music happening in between sometimes feels secondary. Kruelty are writing music to keep the pit going long enough and hard enough that it could power a small city. It’s easy to understand how they can be hard to pin down genre-wise, given their mixture of styles, but on Untopia they’re a band that is hardcore as fuck. They have a song on here that is legit called “Harder Than Before”.

The combination of death metal vocals and bass rumble puts the band clear into ‘single chex mix floating in a bowl of milk is too challenging a breakfast’ territory, and the occasional low-and-slow section (where you’ll sometimes see the band earn themselves a ‘doom’ tag) is mostly a seasoning this time. Kruelty have written the album equivalent of a street-fight and those of you who aren’t used to dodging bodies at concerts are going to have another thing coming if you get the chance to see them live. There are times throughout Untopia where the song writing style could be best described as ‘pit riff/pit riff/pit riff/low growl/pit riff/mosh call/end’.

photo by Jun Sabio

We have covered Kruelty, so none of this comes as too much of a shock. Their latest via Profound Lore just further cements them as one of the finer purveyors of stone-headed brutality. While it may seem like Kruelty are dead-set on their sound early on within Untopia, a few listens to the seven tracks and thirty-seven minutes present here paints the band as if they’re on a quest to out-dumb themselves musically.

“Maze Of Suffering” and “Manufactured Insanity” at tracks five and six are one of the finer doublets within Untopia‘s runtime. The band have so much sheer heft placed within those two songs that were you to remove them, you would see an album actually change weight classes. And yes, they are absolutely some of the most ‘mosh-ey’ of the songs present, though “Harder Than Before” and “Burn The System” aren’t slouches on that front either.

Then again, up until its final song Untopia is an album that plays out like it was written to go over well live. The songs are brutally simple in nature, and as mentioned before, constructed from a language we all recognize. What makes Kruelty work is that they are explicitly good at dwelling on the low-end of things, and so when they do slow down even further – like the six minutes of “Untopia” – it is fitting for them.

photo by Seijiro Nishimi

You can listen to an album like Untopia and automatically know what you’re going to be doing during a Kruelty set, and were the band to break out the whole thing front-to-back, they could market it as part of a weight loss regimen because you aren’t going to get much of a chance to stop. The nonstop earth-rumbling bellows and the bass guitar fighting for the low end with piston hammer drums in the background works well for them and keeps them distinct, even when they’ve performed the classic core-band maneuver of writing a constant mosh pit.

Yes, Untopia is gloriously dumb and that is likely where it will hold a lot of appeal for people. You can get your musical challenges elsewhere, this one is meant for making boulders into pebbles.


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