Death Metal Or Die Trying!
The cream of the crop from this year’s death metal.
I did not originally intend to have any other theme here than simply collecting some of the year’s best DM albums/EPs. But after I had included a few bands it started to seem that each and every band came from the land of the ice and snow that I call “home”. So it became evident I would have to choose the rest from this fabled location as well. I don’t even feel bad, these are most likely better than whatever you were listening to before, so have at you!
I’ve already reviewed their full-length, Mother War, here so I won’t say much about them here. But this list simply wouldn’t be complete without them, and I want to take this opportunity to tell you to drop whatever you’re doing and go listen to them.
Vorum doth hail from the island of Åland. a demilitarized and autonomous island, legally a part of Finland – enough for me to include them in Finndeath. Founded under the name Haudankaivaja, the band released their debut EP, Grim Death Awaits in ’09 with the line-up of Mikko Josefsson, Jonatan Johansson, bassist John Finne, and – I suspect – Bruce Campbell and appeared out of nowhere before next year’s Poisoned Void LP. With each release they have somehow managed to show a new side of their sound. Personally, I can’t fathom how people can consider this a standard – for me it’s a huge bonus if a band manages to reinvent themselves while staying in the frames of their respective style. Vorum is one of the few bands that do deliver when it comes to this. Grim Death Awaits was a ferocious game opener. Songs mostly on the shorter side and vicious attitude met captivating riffwork. Poisoned Void was a more refined effort with some longer songs and overall featured a tad catchier riffwork than before, yet it carried a more “occult” feel, if you know what I mean. Now they have released a disturbingly neurotic EP, Current Mouth. Easily their most dark and raw effort, it features grimier and even noisier songs than before. Still, it retains a good portion of their memorability, possibly rising to take its place as their best release.
Back in 2012 Carnalation released one hell of a deathgrind album in Deathmask. So when the news of their upcoming EP having more twists and turns first broke, I was not amused. Not only is the EP a perfect format for thorough blasting, but it is also quite far from what I wanted. You see, what I wanted was riffs as crushing as “I Am God“, riffs as tight as “Omega Hour“. I wanted another Cadence of Insects and maybe another Floods. What I got was something completely different. And after a few spins it started to sound goddarn good. Ghosts is an EP full of killer modern death metal with an unusually strong emphasis on songwriting dynamics and feel-heavy moments that mostly serve to unnerve and unsettle. This is not to say that Ghosts would be without ferocity like its predecessor – “Passengers” features riffs that would not have been off on Cretin’s It. On other occasions the guitars weave heavy riffs and Teh Fabled Feels together in a way reminiscent of Dead Congregation – if even them.
Old school death metal is a classic case of easy to learn, impossible to master. The genre relies on more or less simple riffs, and only very few who have attempted to bring anything else to the table have succeeded. Naturally, this simplicity is therefore the downfall of numerous bands – it isn’t always easy to tell the bands apart or to really place one release above another, which is why it’s so delightful that Ode To Gore, while definitely a nod to the legends, sounds fresh. It’s an album filled with vital energy, crushing riffs, and memorable hooks. If you’re looking for a taste of tech, shades of obscvrity, overt originality or play on atmospherics: GO AWAY! In it’s construction, it’s very simple – catchy as hell tremolo riffs followed by very mosh-worthy, headbanging groove riffs. Immaculate in design, a putrid stench emanating from its sound and rotten (in a good way) production work, the band’s vision remains strong throughout. There’s really only one anomaly on the album, the outro to “Aghori”. An instrumental solo recalling influences best described as eastern and tribal provides a welcome breather doing its part to maintain attention. As expected, the lyrics are mostly what you would expect from an album called Ode To Gore, but “Cleansing By The Blade” seemingly breaks this mold a bit, telling tales of people mutilating themselves in order to feel better. Charming.
Cult of Endtime
While Cult of Endtime’s music is undoubtedly based on death metal, there lie many other elements as well. On many occasions you find yourself lost in the swirling sludge riffs leading into more straightforward doom riffs right before you are ripped back. While In Charnel Lights takes no time to set the stage with a flurry of powerful riffwork, a thick atmosphere, and a squeal (!), soon the melodic qualities seep in. The album is full of content but well balanced, and it’s impossible to say whether the riffs or the melodies carry the songs more. Think of Vallenfyre without the crust (especially “Hidden Gods”). Most of the album moves through mid-tempo and a modified approach to verse-chorus-bridge guide to songwriting. Cult of Endtime attempts to keep the listeners on their toes by injecting both slower and faster passages and moreover, as I pointed, a modified version of the basic songwriting scheme. Yet in their experimentation they remain conservative, perhaps deviating most on the two or three occasions they set their riffs to stoner. Riffs are carefully crafted into multiple variations that may at first remain unheard – one more agent of their careful formula. This album was composed to be a grower. The only true complaint I have is drummer Tiera. His accentuated style has been one of Kuolemanlaakso’s biggest strengths and is as good as ever here – and he quit. Sami Ratilainen is going to have a long way ahead of him if he’s going to become an apt replacement.