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Friday 15 December 2023

Reviews: Children Of Bodom, Serpent's Oath, Revulsed, Severe Lacerations (Reviews By Mark Young & Matt Bladen)

Children Of Bodom - A Chapter Called Children Of Bodom (Spinefarm) [Mark Young]

Recorded for posterity and to hopefully serve as a fitting marker to the talents of Alexi Laiho who passed away aged 41 years back in 2020. His struggles have been discussed elsewhere and rather we should look to this, the final live recording of the band, taken from the Helsinki Ice Hall on the 15/12/2019.

I’ll go out on a limb right now. This will not be an objective review on my part. I won’t sit here and tell you I was the biggest fan, or that I’d listened to everything they have ever released. But I heard Hate Crew Deathroll and saw them supporting Machine Head and Slipknot at the Manchester Arena in 2008 and thought they were exceptional that night.

This is just a great collection of music, delivered with power and energy that is at odds with the internal problems that were plaguing the band at that time. The sound captures their essence as they blast through the 18 tracks captured here. It’s assumed that some will find fault with the track list but putting that to one side, it starts off with Under Grass and Clover, delivered with that ‘bounce’ that sets that high bar from the off. You forget just how innovative they were, meshing those razor-sharp riffs with synths in a perfect unison. And heavy, In Your Face cracking you across the back of the head with that opening riff, it’s a fantastic reminder of what they could do.
What you get from this is the feel of a band giving all that they can, feeding off the crowd determined to sign off as best they can. Shovel Knockout is as rapid as it could possibly be, as they just go for it stretching that tempo as far past as they can without losing the structure of the song. Its like this all the way through, each of the band playing out of their skin. My absolute favourite, Needled 24-7 is just awesome here, positioned in the set as they are entering the home straight and their performance underlines just how good a song it was. 

Hate Crew Deathroll is another standout, as is Lake Bodom as the pair are torn through before we get to Downfall, a fitting end to an exceptional live album. Sitting down in one go with this is the way to go, get comfy and just take it in as the experience it is meant to be. Its spinetingling in moments, especially when you consider the circumstances to follow. 9/10

Serpent's Oath - Revelation (Odium Records)

Inspired by the Satan worshipping black metal of Dark Funeral and Gorgoroth, Belgian extreme metal force Serpent’s Oath invert their crosses again for their third full length album Revelation, their debut on extreme metal label Odium Records.

Coming off the back of two critically acclaimed albums, Serpent’s Oath have it all to play for with their third record, do you re-tread the same (left hand) path or dare to expand your sound in fear of alienating an often fickle cvlt fandom. Well they masterfully do both here, giving tracks such as Beyond The Void enough fire breathing intensity to peel flesh but also adding moments of atmosphere (from the three intro/interludes that split the record) and melody on the opening of Path Of The Serpent, for a broader brush stroke.

Much of the power of this record comes not only from the performances but the production values as Yarne Heylen uses his death metal associations to make sure Revelation is raw and frostbitten but also has a bottom end grunt so you can hear the work Draghul (drums) and Mørkald (bass) are putting in on Gateways To Tiamat or Drakonian Gnosis.

Baelus and Daenum twist and jerk through tremolo riffing on Purification Through Fire and Beyond The Void especially. Slithering through the fires of satanic mastery Tes Re Oth squawks and growls through the 12 songs on this record, using both on Cult Of Death and the closing epic Pandemonium

Revelation cements Serpent's Oath as an upcoming force in the black metal world. 8/10

Revulsed - Cerebral Contamination (Everlasting Spew Records) [Mark Young]

Revulsed return with Cerebral Contamination, some 8 years after their debut Infernal Atrocity dropped. Just by looking at the cover art alone, you know exactly what you are getting into. Its brutal, occupying that space where the songs are compact to make an impact on you without it just being one note attack. Equitable Sufferance has a case of the Death Metal Janglies, jabbing chords that break into more traditional solo break territory. Those sidewinder guitar shapes herald in Asomatous Existence which drops that classic bottom end chug but not content to stay in one zone they change direction and speed to make sure they keep you from pressing skip.

Musically it’s got some prime Death Metal on here, taking influence from Cannibal Corpse for sure, but those discordant chords give it something more. What I am struggling with is the growls, the actual vocal style. It sits in that particular register that I have never been a fan of. The style notwithstanding you cannot argue with how they attack, its upfront, direct and absolutely full of twists and turns. As I said earlier on Asomatous Existence, they hit with about 4 different styles in one song and when they do go for a ‘traditional’ approach, such as on Perditional Enslavement they still have a load of things going on that you will miss on the first listen.

Nefarious Devourment shows that they can do technical with the best of them, starting with a pulverising kick off into some fretboard magic. It's insanely fast, with some intricate parts that are something else. There isn’t a bad track amongst them, the level of creativity on display is top level. Inconceivable Hallucinations is so dense that it could collapse at any moment but with amazing clarity that you can hear, and this is especially so on Deistic Repudiation with some fiendish guitar work that combines brutality and complexity whilst serving the song.

All told, it’s a great package of Death Metal that lands just in time for Christmas. It does what it needs to do and does it to a very high standard. As I’ve said there are no duff tracks here, each one possessing a high level of quality in the music presented. It’s fast when it needs to be, slow and crushing elsewhere mixing in that technicality that carries the songs further rather than just relying on a one-note attack. 

Fans of Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation will dig this, as they take influence from them and truly put their own stamp on it, so you get that flavour but pepped up to suit. Good to see that at this time of year we are still getting vital releases, a worthy 8/10

Severe Lacerations - Burning The Mortal Coil (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

A fairly new death metal band inspired by the 90’s heyday. Sound familiar? Well there’s been a glut of them over the last few years, a lot of them championed by or featuring Kieran Scott of Ashen Crown/DeathCollector. 

He is now championing Cumbrian brutalists Sever Lacerations but there is a reason for that, Lee Cummings who he plays with him in DeathCollector is the founding member of this band, leaving in 2005 but returning in 2020. On this album is Cummings (guitar/bass/drum programming), Ian Maxwell (vocals) and Fil Rourke (guitar), the trio writing the nastiest, filthiest death metal they could ready to punish the world, sadly Fil Rourke passed away earlier in 2023 after an illness but he urged his band mates to “Make sure they get heard.” 

After the funeral Cummings looked through guitar takes from Fils practices and their emails between each other while demoing/learning the tracks, it was these that were used as his parts on the album. It's on Fils insistence Severe Lacerations lives and breathes and this debut record of nine bludgeoning death metal tracks are his tribute. Mixed and mastered by Gord Olson of Darkened, it was all hands on deck to get this record out as a CD, Picture disc etc by 12th December which was Rourke’s birthday. (I’m writing this review on that day and they have achieved it). 

A triumph over adversity, it’s difficult to be too critical of this record, not just because it’s Rourke’s legacy (his last recorded guitar parts) but also that it’s quite a decent slab of studio death, tracks such as Unholy Revenge juggling a biting riff and some divebombs/lead solos before it shifts back into outright blasting. Terror Signal goes into a death metal crush, Subjugation is discordant grind while Atavistic employs some great lead guitar, title track combining thrash and death. Burning The Mortal Coil, is a way to honour their friend of Severe Lacerations and sets the groundwork for more shows and hopefully more music. 8/10

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