Catacomb Ventures – Weltering in Burning Filth

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Few things fare better in the horrifically oppressive temperature this summer than the ruthless hunger and otherworldly violence of death metal, reveling in accelerated decay and maddening inferno. Here are six of the most promising acts from this year you should be paying attention to if they’re not already mulching your flesh and bones.

Mephitic Corpse
Immense Thickening Vomit
(2019 – Headsplit Records)

As refreshing as it is repulsive, California’s Mephitic Corpse recapture the spirit of a sound that in spite of its appeal to fans of both classic death metal and grind remains unusually under-represented today. Emanating the same miasma of uncleanliness and disease as Necrolatry (Michigan), Blood Clot, Fallen Angel (Denmark), and even a bit of Repulsion, its lo-fi analog production legitimately make it sound like some recently unearthed demo you’d pick up on the archives of a Russian filesharing site. Free from much of the over-familiarized many off their 90’s styled contemporaries, this debut demo is comprised almost entirely of boneheaded bulldozing riffs with only scant strands of melody emerging from within the hellish morass. It’s percussive and hammering nearly to the extent of some earlier brutal death metal (even early slam variants) though admittedly slower and closer to the grindcore roots of that subgenre. However where they differ from the offspring of Suffocation and Cryptopsy is their methodical attack. Moments of claustrophobic blasting terror are to be expected but they exist within a framework of carefully paced repetition with monstrous downtempo chunk chords and an eye for lengthier tremolo phrases imprinting direction and shape amidst a backdrop of sheer mayhem. This is the only really  “modern” thing about this demo; it’s delivered in an unexpectedly if subtly calculated manner, knowing how to gradually build up motion and theme through multiple iterations of what normally would be monotone pounding. It does this sacrificing any of the profane disgust, making it a good example of bands more clever and careful than they would initially seem. So far there is only a tape release planned for late this month.

Sedimentum
Demo | Podcast
(2019 – Independent)

Bolt Thrower is a band whose popularity has gone from impressive to enormous in recent years and their disbanding has only given them a posthumous boost in size. Yet their influence on death metal had already been cemented even as the genre was in its nascent stages. Sedimentum however differ somewhat from the usual disciples of these Brits, combining their steady midtempo march with the swamping atmospheric ambience of latter day “cavernous” bands and a few traditional Finnish ones like Grave Miasma and Abhorrence respectively. It turns out that these camps actually touch on a good deal of common ground and for the better. These Canadians use the familiar technique of having punchy riffs march lockstep with the drumming to create the same mounting tension and rhythmic consistency that have drawn in death-heads for years but with the big reverberating production job and touches of melody on top of doomy ringing chords, gradually create a suffocating sense of mood more occult than Bolt Thrower’s warlike aspirations. These build-ups are resolved as they pick up speed, resulting in moments of furious blasting holidng up simple single-note riffs. It’s a long winded approach but it carefully balances cyclic patterns of riffing with sudden moments of throttling intensity and speed, letting the mounting dread snowball into explosive resolutions. They aren’t afraid to use crunchier, head-band inducing riffs either which helps keep the longer ones from feeling just background filler or too static. Effective, compact, and visceral – it’s a strong start for this Quebec band.

Devoid of Thought
Cosmic Apoptosis
(2019 – Caligari Records)

Most of the death metal revival focuses heavily on the punky, blackened, grinding, and doomy heritage of the genre and leaves out much of the thrash-descended craftsmanship that defined an enormous often American part of the genre. Perhaps there’s some quiet consensus that Monstrosity and Deicide don’t have the same personality as Incantation or Demilich. Thankfully, these Italians (who used to play thrash themselves) are here to set the record straight with a mixture of understated technicality, bassiness squaring off against spacey dissonance, and dusty decrepit atmosphere in a way that reminds of Gorguts’ The Erosion of Sanity though this trades in the early NY death metal influence for a darker continuation of the Slayer/Kreator/Sepultura concepts. However this is a far cry from late 80’s mosh-happy fare with deliberately off-key soloing over charging rhythms and moments of vast discordant chordal strums, punctuated by a dense and reverberating bass presence. Structurally it’s a bit simpler by comparison and doesn’t fully reveal the capabilities of its aesthetic, utilizing a series of cycles of short vicious riffs that leapfrog into new sections to briefly expand on the structural core of the compositions. It doesn’t always give them enough room to play around with some genuinely fascinating technique and approaches to tonality not often seen in classic styled death metal and does somewhat betray their thrashy roots though compared to 2017’s Astral Necrosis it does show a big step up. The same can be said for their split with fellow Italians Into Coffin with their seven minute side of the split approaching a somewhat more narrative continuation of this idea and all for the better. A band to keep an eye on, promising new pathways through ancient domains.

Mortal Incarnation
Lunar Radiant Dawn
(2019 – Independent)

Japan is not often a place that comes to many people’s minds when we talk about classic death metal. Sure there was Intestine Baalism, Transgressor is a cult name in some circles, and there was a bit of buzz about Necrophile a few years back but beyond that it is far from a hotspot. Cue my surprise when this popped up on bandcamp when searching for death-doom with its mellow, mysterious album cover and some unexpected tags (gothic, metallic hardcore, shoegaze). Off of the bat, this isn’t really that doomy and nor does it exactly go into artsy post-skronk-core territory or whatever but it is really fucking nasty, dynamic death metal. In particular, it belongs to the “actually sounds like Incantation” school rather than the “Incantation riffs slowed down and extended unreasonably” one. Moments of strange harmonies with scratchy guitar leads and Disembowelment style floaty clean notes appear at opportune moments that when combined with the slightly muted, unprocessed production create a dreamlike vibe. All of this transpires in two lengthy tracks (six and 10 minutes) full of a good deal of tempo changes, stylistic shifts, and moments of unnerving wormy intensity. There isn’t much repetition either but that further enhances the journey-like atmosphere and semi-cinematic quality that passes in these six minutes, capable of being crushingly intense yet at times distant and beckoning like the pale mist shrouding an old forest. I suppose we could say this is “retroprogressive” in a sense; a classic aesthetic yet a distinctly contemporary sound. Crushing, chaotic, and entrancing all at once.

Vitriol (Germany)
Chrysalis
(2019 – Iron Bonehead)

The previous band may have played around with sparse moments of haunting ambience but Vitriol fully are fully immersed in and possessed by a haze of delirious tonality. If you thought psychedelic death metal was going to be semi-rocking Morbus Chron or Cadaveric Fumes fare, then prepare to be torn apart by this whirlwind of merciless noisy violence. Vitriol’s baseline is based on a sort of death metal savage enough to be on par with blast-happy modern bands but with its roots in the late 80’s period of the genre with comparisons to Morbid Angel, Angelcorpse, Vorum, and Omegavortex being appropriate. They differ however in the abstract and at times near improvised sounding take on songwriting, creating a flailing hydra of what might have been blackened thrashy riffs combined with some sort of brain-melting pedalboard massacring fretboard sorcery with los of noisy playing layered against the white noise intensity, like a malfunctioning artificial intelligence screaming at you from behind an overloading influx of corrupted data. There is a lot going on in both songs and at times it sounds near random in its direction but the band play with an absolutely rapid fury that manages to tie it all together and use its moments of near-taunting serenity to imply some sort of order hiding at the heart of a typhoon. It reminds me a bit of Suffering Hour and Voidspawn less so in sound and moreso in how it takes a contemporary sound, returns its to its roots, then proceeds to inject mutagenic compounds into it resulting in a sound that feels like it’s picking up where the classics left off but going onto a completely different and frankly unnerving tangent.

Feeding
The Stench of Life & Demo 2019
(Independent)

Death metal’s punk roots used to be a surprising secret back in the mid 2000’s but ever since the raw-and-rotten hordes resurrected its classic sound now it’s become an ordinary part of life as numerous Bolt Thrower and Entombed loving bangers will let you know. Feeding feel the same clearly though like fellow Canadians Altered Dead they’ve given us something much filthier and even more primitive yet somehow more refreshing than what you’d expect of either. Like Death Strike and Master, Feeding ignore much of the thrash-derived rhythmic architecture of the genre but at the same time lace sinister and succinct melodies and lengthier structures broken up with moments of furious grindy blasting in a somewhat anachronistic continuation of what might be the earliest strain of the genre. It’s definitely not as repetitive as the two previously mentioned bands, in a way similar to Severed Survival era Autopsy if all the fun groovy bits and Black Sabbath inspired parts were removed and you made them twice as pissed off and instilled a love of the odd blast or two. A lot of fast tupa-tupa kick-snare patterns and semi-black metal howling give it a sense of weighty unchained aggression with broad strokes of reverberating chords creating torturous texture combined with hellishly infuriated vocals. The songs while not exactly as complex as the previously listed bands do progress through quite a bit of ground in short to moderate lengths, deftly changing from idea to idea with little need for obvious transitions or smooth flow; stripped down hatefulness is their weapon of choice and it propels both demos forward with impressive efficiency. A lot of its speed subsequently comes from just how quickly it gets to the point. They know when a riff has just finished running its course and immediately leap to the next, keeping a steady flow of energy and intensity that outdoes most of the blastmasters of today. A band poised to violently decapitate (figuratively) many of their fellow filth-mongers in coming years.

 

Cover image courtesy of VK6.

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