November Roundup: Death Metal Galore
We’ve got the latest from Gorekaust, Anatomia, Panssarituho, Ghastly, Tuhonsiemen & Enslaved.
Gorekaust – Putrefied Icon
Independent – July 30th
Gorekaust is a newcomer on the field of death metal and part of the refreshing breeze in the Finnish scene, in that they’re part of the next generation stepping in. Putrefied Icon followed close on the heels of their debut single “The Seed”. It’s chaotic, unfiltered and unbridled death metal, although some of the chaos sounds like the result of the mix and vigor and not of planned composition.
While I am always happy to see fresh faces and young blood enter the fray, Gorekaust is really just decent at best. Good enough to warrant a spin, but not remarkable in any way that would invite another. The solos in “Black Prowler of the Abyss” and especially the title track show a slight angular quality that I find myself enjoying greatly, and I think with “The Seed,” Gorekaust wrote something more engaging all in all than anything on this EP, so it is not a hopeless beginning. For my taste in death metal Putrefied Icon has just a tad too much Blasphemy in it, without the commitment to war metal in general.
Anatomia – Corporeal Torment
Me Saco Un Ojo – May 20th
A Japanese doom/death duo that’s been around for almost 20 years, Anatomia isn’t here to fool around. About as appropriately as you’d think, the main body of their work consists of of splits with just about everyone. A few others short releases, and two live albums are now joined by their 4th album, Corporeal Torment. Or rather was joined by Corporeal Torment a few months back and has been expanded with another split release and an exclusive compilation appearance.
This is the third band I’ve written about that I’m comparing to Coffins within as many days (if these come out as tightly I don’t know) but Anatomia is darker and devoutly married to the ideas of death and doom. No fun to be had, no winks or nods and no odd, gangly grooves on twisted riffs. No, Corporeal Torment is exactly what it says on the tin. Dry, straight-for-the-throat doom metal with plenty of plodding riffs that hit home simultaneously because and despite their simplicity. And blunt, violent death metal from the very pits of whence Tonosaki and Tanaka summon their deep vocals.
Devolved Hellhammer riffs bring the most change of pace to the album, which never returns to the blistering speed of its opening moments, once it’s settled and the “death” becomes subservient to the “doom”. By the time the penultimate “Despaired Void” rolls around all that’s left is something that could easily serve as the beginning of a new niche genre torturous doom, if Wormphlegm hadn’t gotten there a time ago. It’s more atmospheric in its approach than the preceding two, more about the anguish itself than inflicting it.
This idea is dragged out and (de)fleshed by the 20+ minute closer “Mortem”, which features only sparse percussion, growing ever more anxious in their performance, guitars contributing noise and drone instead of riffs and sparser still vocals, and ambiance replacing the structure. So much of Corporeal Torment seems to rely on experiencing the album as one piece instead of individual songs, it makes sense Anatomia would have scattered all their songs that weren’t composed to fill a conceptual hole across their splits. Haunting by the end, torturous from the start, Corporeal Torment is one of the most pervasive doom/death experiences I can remember in quite some time.
Ghastly – Mercurial Passages
20 Buck Spin – May 28th
Ghastly began as a side-project of sorts, for Ian J. D`Waters, as his bandmate in Garden of Worm, Gassy Sam, encouraged him to finish a few death metal-oriented songs he’d begun. These were eventually fashioned into the Death is Present demo, with Gassy Sam on vocals. The duo’s debut full-length, Carrion of Time may still have betrayed their background in more traditional doom, with which its cover art flirts, and hinted at the uncharted waters Ian would steer his ship towards, but was still firmly rooted in old school death metal (excuse no pun). The sophomore, Death Velour, much better presented the unique voice blooming in Ghastly’s heart, and while that may have been an excellent record in its own right, Mercurial Passages does better still in every fashion.
Ghastly plays mid-tempo death metal with an almost relaxed groove, plenty of clean guitar and an emphasis on melodies that are ghastly indeed, drawing from old Amorphis and Demigod, yes, but also King Crimson, Goblin and Arthur Brown. And though you won’t find epics in the sense of “The Devil’s Triangle” or “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic”, or Gamelan-influenced post-death à la “Thela Hun Ginjeet”, the influence reaches beyond individual motifs and into the structures and ideas on a deeper level. But seriously though, Gamelan-death when? Want.
What death metal bands usually skimp over, Ghastly focuses on, and though it could be described as quite ‘out there’, it’s still unashamedly based in death metal, with careful attention paid to every detail. A great example of which would be the lyrics. D’Waters himself doesn’t so much care for lyrics, but instead of just throwing something out there, poorly enough to give me brain rot, as a few too many lyricists seem intent on, he’s formed a working relationship with lyricist Andy (McMillion? It’s more difficult to verify his last name than it should be*), who now steers Ghastly away from some of death metal’s bog-standard imagery and into nightmarish waters to compliment the music’s psychedelic flavour.
If you’ve an inclination towards the likes of Morbus Chron or Venenum, I’d warmly recommend getting acquainted with Ghastly, for it is of similar inclination, even though it doesn’t strictly speaking inhabit the exact same space musically as either of them.
Panssarituho – Loputon Teurastus
Independent – June 1st
Founded two years ago, Panssarituho has been making the most of their time. Having already released two demos last year, it’s now time for their debut full-length. However, it’s also being released independently, and as far as I can tell, exclusively to digital services, which unfortunately makes me think of a stretched out demo masquerading as an album. How does Loputon Teurastus‘ “No ideology, no politics, no bullshit, JUST PURE FUCKING METAL” *yawn* fare?
Heavily rolling mid-tempo death metal very nicely spiced up with a thrashy edge is on the platter by and large, but Panssarituho mix it up a little with “Kadonnut”, bringing subdued chug-riffing to the formula, but though it has a standout solo, the restraint struggles to carry the tune for 4 minutes. “Ikuinen Kadotus” uses similar ideas to a better result, mixing it up with just a tad of Morbid Angel somewhere there, but it’s the thrashier material of the first three songs that fare the best, with the varied closing number “Kuolema kutsuu kaikkia tänään”.
Though I cannot read their slogan without vividly flashing back to conversations where people pined for the times “Napalm Death wasn’t political”, or Bolt Thrower for that matter, my eyes violently rolling to the back of my head, Panssarituho fares altogether well, even if I remain only half-sold on the material at hand. I like the tank-centric aesthetic and if we had a bonus point system implemented, I’d award them a few for sticking to their native language, something all too few death metal bands are willing to do.
Tuhonsiemen – Katkeransuloinen
Black Soul Productions – January 20th
Tuhonsiemen’s second and last full-length is a short effort. Under 30 minutes of raw and fairly melodic (and also clear sounding) black metal released independently may not sound like the most endearing thing for many of you—but then y’all always had terrible taste.
Katkeransuloinen, however, has a very sophisticated way of riffing, and arranging songs, if you can call it that. Lively riffs with rhythmic deviations from the black metal norm; melodic breaks and other twists that in and of themselves hardly form a novel or unique approach to the genre, but are reducible to no particular movement that came before. This could have made for an interesting career later on.
Not every song can keep up the quality though, especially “Astraalitalo” and “Kaikujen Kirkko” feel lackluster compared to the rest of the material and on a record as short as Katkeransuloinen that’s almost a fatal flaw. It’s a shame the band felt this was the perfect point to call it quits though, because this is the first time Tuhonsiemen ever really managed to harness the potential hinted at before into songwriting.
Enslaved – Caravans to the Outer Worlds
Nuclear Blast – October 1st
Enslaved put out a pretty good album last year with Utgard. Easy, but complex—poppy and proggy at the same time, surpassing its two predecessors with ease. It would give the band no justice to say they’ve returned already, as instead of any absence of leave, they’ve flood the market with no less than 4 different live albums sold exclusively through their own store and label.
To make it up to Nuclear Blast, they’ve now released a new EP exclusively through theirs. Caravans to the Outer Worlds being composed of new and original material of course makes it quite a bit more interesting. The opening title track has that In Times’ “looking back at our past” feel with the straightforward black metal mixed with the sound of wind swooshing and a mellower ending to account for the ‘outer world’ part. This time around the synth brass doubling the riff does remind me of their early Hordanes/Vikinligr days, if only for a second for it’s done exactly once.
For many, the main point of interest will probably be “Ruun II – The Epitaph”, being a sequel to one of their most beloved songs, but for myself it’s the EP’s driest bit. A variation on a riff from the original’s back-end, dragged for 5 minute straight, it feels more like an interlude than the two actual interludes—instrumentals titled “Intermezzo”—which actually do serve as the titular caravans, or a musical equivalent thereof. It’s a nice snack from Enslaved, though I doubt many had yet grown very hungry.
*Information does not seem to be the band’s strongpoint. For example, Johnny Urnripper who shares vocals with Gassy Sam on Mercurial Passages apparently appeared on Death Velour already, according to a recent interview, but no one seems to have known. Likewise, Gassy Sam seems to have since quit and it’s a little unclear if Robin the Grave will replace him as vocalist, or if he’ll be relegated to live duties only.