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Thursday 4 August 2022

Reviews: Guttural Disease, Daius, Whispers In The Maze, Heretic Legion (Reviews By Zach Scott, Paul Scoble, Zak Skane & Matt Cook)

Guttural Disease – The Foreseen Deadline (Brutal Mind) [Zach Scott]

Hailing from West Java in Indonesia, Guttural Disease are a brutal death metal outfit who have been around cracking skulls in the regional scene since 2011, despite only having released one EP and a demo so far. The Foreseen Deadline, the band’s first full-length outing, shows their loyalty to the unrelentingly heavy and oppressive sound of the genre, cementing themselves firmly as unashamedly focused on brutality. 

Kicking things off with an instrumental featuring chunky riffs and some great solos, the first track Verse 1 – Self Redeem shows two important things about this album; the low-fi production style which is firmly rooted in brutal death metal’s heritage, and the linear song structure found in so much death metal. This continues as the album progresses, with second track Sancaka displaying Dio’s gurgling toad-like vocals as well as the band’s penchant for chaotic and speed-oriented structures interspersed with groovier parts, notably the heavy breakdown at the end of this track and the album’s title song. The guitars and drum work on this album is reminiscent of the more technical side of brutal death metal, echoing the intricate riffs of early Cryptopsy, Dying Fetus, and Defeated Sanity, while the vocals are less interesting - much more akin to the work of modern slam bands like Abominable Putridity. 

Speaking of slam, Guttural Disease tends to eschew overt influence from the style which is quite unusual as bands in this genre tend to favour fairly frequent use of heavy slams – they are present, such as in Bloodstained Altars and the end of West Java Central Legion, but they are tasteful and not overused as this kind of riff often can be. The bass work does feel a little understated on this record, which is a shame because a band with the quality songwriting displayed here can really be lifted even higher by some excellent bass playing – little things like short bass interludes or even just hearing the bass playing slightly different parts to the guitar can really make a difference in the quality of the songs. The bass is definitely audible, just not really as interesting as it could be. Again, similar bands like Cryptopsy and Defeated Sanity always have very interesting and unique bass lines that make the songs stand out and be memorable, and that’s just absent here. 

Songwriting-wise, it is done intelligently. Riffs don’t overstay their welcome but they are allowed enough time to sink in, and tempo changes are done deliberately and effectively. Each song does genuinely feel like a different song which is fairly rare in this region of death metal so this album stands above the crop of generic brutal death metal that has been fairly common since the Mid-2000s. The lead guitar work is also great, with some very thoughtful solos scattered throughout, as opposed to mindless shredding thrown in without a moment’s thought – this use of short and memorable solos steps this album up another notch. Overall, this album is great, with some excellent riff work and a strong level of songwriting from this Indonesian 5-piece, although it could’ve been improved even further by more interesting instrumental work from the rhythm section and even vocals. 8/10

Daius - Ascuns (Sleaszy Rider Records) [Paul Scoble]

Ascuns is the debut album by Romanian Band Daius. The band have been making music together since 2020, and are made up of Danial Neagoe on Vocals, Mihal Dinuta on Guitars, Alex Gheorghe also on Guitars, Andrei Oltean on Flute, Kaval and Bagpipes and Alex Costin on Bass. The album was self released last year, but has been picked up for release by Sleazsy Rider, which I am very glad about, as I was not aware of the band, despite Daius featuring four members of Clouds, one of my favourite Funeral Doom bands (I was clearly not paying enough attention), so they have saved me from missing out on what is a very good debut album. 

The album is made up of 5 fairly long songs, the style of music Daius play has a definite folk influence, with one member of the band playing Flute, Kaval (a traditional central European instrument that is similar to a flute but is played strait rather than at right angles to the face) and bagpipes that shouldn’t be surprising, mixed with pretty aggressive Black Metal. Daius do have similarities with Clouds in the melodies used, but only in some places where the tempo drops closer to Doom territory, for the most part this is much more extreme, with a definite penchant for Blast beats which moves this band away from the beautiful ethereal Funeral Doom of Clouds. The mix of Black Metal and Folk works very well, there is a similarity to some Dawn Ray’d, and some of the use of Flutes is reminiscent of some Violet Cold material (although the Flutes on Violet Cold’s material are probably samples, rather than played live), the way the flute melodies interact with the harsh and blasting Guitar, Bass and Drums seemed to have a similar feel. 

I was also reminded of Folk Black Metal pioneer SorgSvart, on the track Negurate, which features a Jaw Harp as a lot of SorgSvart material does. Negurate also features an opening that felt quite Medieval Black Metal in style. The folk element on Ascuns is pronounced and on all of the songs, the track Vecie is probably the most Black Metal of the songs, most of the song is fast and frantic Blast Beats and savage Tremolo Picked riffs, with a simple Flute melody over the top that helps to drive the track forward. The song does have a soft, folk section; one of the ones that is reminiscent of Clouds, but Vecie is mainly about blasting savagery. The mirror image of Vecie is the albums final, title track Ascuns. The song features lots of Flute and Bagpipes, there is a bit of a Scottish feel to some of the song due to the mix of traditional instruments, there are heavy and extreme parts to the song, but on balance this is definitely the softest track. 

The second half of the track features some great, expansive Folk sections that feel as huge as the sky and feature a suitably enormous melody. Ascuns is a great album, it’s a complex mix of different styles that could have been a mess, but is instead a superbly realised Folk Black Metal album. The amount of melody and tunefulness is enormous, whilst also being extreme, aggressive, viscous and blasting. I’m very glad I didn’t miss out on this album, as I have really enjoyed it, it’s a very impressive debut, I am already looking forward to the follow up. 9/10

Whispers In The Maze – Stories Untold Chapter 1 (Self Released) [Zak Skane]

The Ottawa melodic death metal act has released the first part of their second E.P Stories Untold Chapter 1. The intention of this release is to publish re-recorded songs that have been produced with previous line ups. As soon as we press play, the band doesn’t mess about, the first track Poisoning the Imagination kicks straight in with the vocals producing those classic old school sounding snarls that every melodic death metal fan reminisces from classic albums such as At The Gates - Slaughter Of The Soul and In Flames - Jester Race. The traditional triplet swing is embedded within the drums and guitars, which makes a nice bed to allow the lyrics to have a poetic feel. 

Speaking of the guitars, these parts are arranged in a very orchestral manner allowing the listener to be engulfed in the bands sonic complexities of trading harmonies and riffs. Ink shows off the bands musical chemistry by implementing fretless bass lines that you would hear from Deaths discography as well as throwing odd meter riffs to really keep the listener on their toes. The tribal introduction of Chained To The Grave shows the bands their groovy side with it’s up tempo straight forward chugging sections and it’s guitar and double kick orientated rhythms. Behind Your Eyes leads the band to a more Black metal-esc direction with a twist, combining all the elements that was introduced to us in the previous tracks, the classic 90s melodeath, the musical experimentation and the grooves, the band have one more side to display to us… the Goth inspired choruses. 

With all these elements at the helm it does set a good conclusion to the first part of the album. I really enjoyed the retro style production on this album, the drums don’t sound over produced or sample replaced, the guitars have that classic Gothenburg buzz saw tone which complements Benjamins rip roaring vocals. The criticism that I would suggest is swapping the last two tracks because it felt that Chained Till The Grave has more of a strong ending. 9/10

Heretic Legion – Torment (Self Released) [Matt Cook]

I can use this space to analyze and remark on the music, however the selling point lies in the throat of Daniel Klinteberg. The 31-year-old helmsman of Swedish four-piece Death Metal act Heretic Legion must have had a bevy of pent-up animosity ahead of the recording for Torment (Spinnup). That’s not some unfathomable enigma when it comes to the genre, obviously, but the way in which Klinteberg balances that with a marinaded, smoked and fresh-off-the-grill slab of groove is enticing to say the least. 

It’s like in pro wrestling when certain characters are either unable or unwilling to invest in the idea of kayfabe and instead live their persona as if the storytelling is literally happening to them. The sheer bitterness and detestation that Klinteberg allows to erupt out of his mouth would give Mount Vesuvius a solid run for its money. The personal emotion and real-life rage is ever-present. Now that I think of it, a pyroclastic surge is the best way to sum up this performance. Point Of No Return is a treatise aimed at a supposed traitor or enemy. Put frankly, it’s what victims of R. Lee Emery must have felt like after getting mercilessly chewed out in boot camp. And as much visceral vocal vomiting that is contained in Judgement Told, the groove line remains saucy and satiating. 

Circling back to the Vesuvius reference, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if live performances from Heretic Legion saw moshers in the pit curled up in the fetal position like those nearly perfectly-preserved ashen cocoons of corpses recovered from Pompeii. Also circling back to the intro, Torment isn’t 100 percent Klinteberg because the mighty rhythm section of Rasmus Karlsson (guitars), Linus Fredriksson (drums) and Benjamin Hjort Andersson (bass) lays down a foundation suitable for any hurricane the Caribbean is able to muster. 

On My Side takes on a drum-driven, diesel-fueled persona throughout. But at the end of the day, the spectrum with which Klinteberg drew from makes Legion an adaptable, resilient death metal record. Heed the warning when the peak looks ready to explode. 8/10   

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