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Monday 25 November 2019

Reviews: Cattle Decapitation, Dark Fortress, Project Ruins, Necrotted (Dr Claire/Charlie, Paul H, Zach & Rich)

Cattle Decapitation: Death Atlas (Metal Blade Records) [Dr Claire Hanley & Charlie Rogers]

It’s been 4 whole years since The Anthropocene Extinction. No wonder the 3 months since Cattle Decapitation first teased us with their new material has felt like a lifetime. We knew we were in for something a bit special but had no idea the extent to which the band were going to level-up on this record. Known for their lightning fast riffs and precision blast-beats, this album more than delivers on that front, but the band have clearly evolved and we’re treated to a more coherent sound this time around. The production quality is second to none. Dave Otero is a master of the mixing desk and showcases his ability to capture the full spectrum of the bands vision for this record. From eerie melancholic laments through to brutal skull-bashing riffs, this album is an absolute rollercoaster – taking you through a myriad of dynamic tempo changes and atmosphere-building interludes.

You get a sense of foreboding with the opening track as newscasts from across the globe deliver warning of our impending doom. Slightly too laboured but it more than sets the tone. Then, out of nowhere, you’re dropped into oblivion. The Geocide is a total gut-punch, a visceral display of brutality. Travis Ryan’s vocals are on-point and as grotesque as ever, and David McGraw delivers his usual earth-shattering double kicks, particularly during the intro. This is a relentless freight-train of a track. Be Still Our Bleeding Hearts highlights Olivier Pinard’s prowess as one of death metal’s top bassists; a welcome new addition to the line-up since the previous record. From first listen, Vulturous was a standout track, featuring a number of catchy riffs and killer hooks from dream team Josh Elmore and Belisario Dimuzio. There’s a much fuller guitar sound throughout the whole album, which will no doubt be due to Belisario being made a permanent member of the band; after touring with them for a number of years. The track closes with an air of decompression; it literally feels like you’re melting. Gradually disintegrating into nothingness.

After a brief interlude with The Great Dying, we’re into more familiar territory with One Day Closer To The End Of The World and Bring Back The Plague. The former takes the meaning of groove to a whole new level, while the latter is reminiscent of material from The Harvest Floor (specifically the track A Body Farm) with an almost Flamenco style breakdown. You could tango to this shit. One of the slower tracks on the album, Absolute Destitute isn’t your average Cattle Decapitation track. It’s definitely intense but not because of break-neck speed. Following The Great Dying II, Finish Them is another lesson in groove. Its driving pace demands your attention. There is a real sense of purpose, echoing the theme of the album, and you can’t help but take notice.

By the time, With All Disrespect graces our ears, despite a solid performance on all fronts it feels a bit samey, but Time’s Cruel Curtain turns things around, with its sense of devastation. It’s all about the atmosphere and the aura of beautiful destruction, which leaves you repenting for your sins. This is matched by the following track, which further emphasises this haunting melancholic beauty. The Unerasable Past even features a clean vocal performance, which works perfectly in this context - highlighting Travis’ versatility and showcasing his ever impressive talent. Flowing seamlessly into Death Atlas, this 9 minute long track is your last helping of pounding drums and aggressive riffage, which ties the album together with the effect of leaving you amongst the smouldering ruins. A premonition of our ultimate demise - a funeral for all mankind.

On reflection, the overall standard of the material is very high. There is a real sense of purpose and the message is clear. There are certainly highlights but consistency can sometimes be a poisoned chalice, with some of the tracks blending into the background. Nevertheless, Death Atlas is a fine addition to the Cattle Decapitation discography - certainly worthy of a place in the top-5 albums of 2019 so far. 8/10.

Dark Fortress: Stab Wounds - Reissued (Century Media) [Paul Hutchings]

Ahead of their new release Spectres From The Old World, which is in its final stages of production, what better time than to revisit the epic third album from German Black metallers Dark Fortress. Originally released in 2004, this is 69 minutes of brutal darkness and contains some of the band’s seminal tracks. Vocals from Azathoth sound as good today as they did fifteen years ago, his haunting delivery throughout chilling and potentially underrated. Three members of the line-up on Stab Wounds remain with the band to this day; guitarists Santura and Asvargr and drummer Seraph and their performance also stands the test of time with ease. Pivotal to the whole album is When 1000 Crypts Awake, the classic track from a phenomenal release. Flanked by the bludgeoning title track, the frenetic Despise The Living and the spellbinding closing track Endtime, this reissue is a welcome reminder that the return of Dark Fortress in 2020 should be a highlight of the metal calendar. 8/10

Project Ruins: Closing The Season (Self Released) [Zach Williams]

Let's face it, we all do weird stuff on the Internet. Whether it's freely releasing your sensitive personal data or having some 'alone' time, it's undeniable that we spend a hell of a lot of our lives online. It was only a matter of time that the power of the internet was harnessed in service of metal. Enter Project Ruins and their long awaited second album Closing The Season – an album written, recorded and produced by musicians from all four corners of the globe. Project Ruins is the brainchild of musician David Beaumont who scours the internet for co-collaborators to help him bring his vision to life, and for the most part they do it justice.

The guitar work is great. It’s blisteringly fast and technically impressive while remaining catchy enough to get stuck in your head. They’re backed by a rhythm section so tight it bewilders me that they haven’t spent the last ten years practicing together, let alone never even met in person. For the most part the vocals are a Randy Blythe-esque barrage of growling fury which lend themselves nicely to the heaviness on display. There are clean vocals that crop up throughout the record that I felt could have been stronger, but for the most part this is a genuinely impressive display of what can be achieved by total strangers on the internet. Unlike 4chan. 7/10

Necrotted: Die For Something Worthwhile EP (Rising Nemesis Records) [Rich Oliver]

Let’s get this out of the way first. I hate slam. It’s dull, repetitive, uninspired and just a bit stupid even for death metal. Necrotted are a German slam death metal band with Die For Something Worthwhile being the new EP from the band following a previous EP and three albums. Now with this being a slam release I fully expected to hate every second of it but whilst I didn’t particularly enjoy the EP it is not the worst slam I have been subjected to. Necrotted definitely have far more musical skill than the average slam band employing influences from technical death metal into their sound as well as the standard simplistic chuggy riffings and stupefying breakdowns the slam genre is known for. The breakdowns themselves are actually fairly restrained and used to a minimum with the intent of this EP to bludgeon with riffings and blastbeats instead.

There were even tinges of melody throughout as well to my complete surprise. There are two vocalists in the band with one doing death metal growls and the other a more hardcore style. Neither particularly stand out but neither are they unlistenable. Necrotted have released a surprisingly ok EP here. The tech death influences surprised me and I hope this is an area they build upon rather than the stagnant idiosyncrasies that slam death metal usually has to offer. There isn’t enough here for me to revisit the band but in future I won’t completely write off a band when I see the word slam. 5/10

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