(Pulverised Records, 2014)
#FOR FANS OF: Swedish Death Metal, Entombed, Grave, Fleshcrawl
The third full-length from Swedish Death Metal band Vanhelgd, this is prime-era early-90s worship that manages to be quite faithful to the sound and origin of the scene without doing anything really new or distinguished that would’ve set them apart. This is really Swedish paint-by-numbers style of Death Metal where the band seems to be going through the checklist of what needs to be included, which means we get that unmistakable churning, grinding buzzsaw guitar patterns and loud, thumping bass working throughout the whole album which augments the hoarse, raspy growls quite well which inevitably starts sounding quite similar to the retro-sounding “cavernous” vocal approach that many modern Death Metal bands employ in an attempt to sound “Old-School.” Thankfully, it’s not as common as that approach but remains more faithful to their forefathers which adds a defined old-school approach to their music which really sells their influences quite well and endears them to the old-school crowd if only to really make them devoid of their own identity. This is mostly due to the rather restrained tempos on display here as the band doesn’t really get up in the faster realm all that often and tends to meander around in the mid-tempo more often and only infrequently preferring to speed things up, and while this makes for a fine round of heavy riffing, pounding drum-work and the welcome amount of melody within, the identity of the band tends to get lost in a sea of mid-paced patterns and plodding rhythms that really could’ve come from any band in the genre and don’t really put them through any unique or creative patterns beyond the more Black Metal-influenced melodies it starts playing with the later in the album it goes. This results in many of the songs having a sprawling, churning pace to them that manages to compliment the attack well surprisingly, for the lack of speed in the compositions initially comes to help them in providing a natural foundation to hang the slow, droning crawls that tend to pop up through most of the tracks here and really brings up the album in places as the two elements go well together. Intro "Dödens Maskätna Anlete" pretty much gives the listener what to expect from the outset with grinding buzzsaw rhythms, pounding drums and hoarse screaming vocals that wind through multitudes of tempos from speedier sections to more down-beat, atmospheric patterns that through in some melodic buffers by nature of their downbeat tempo against the faster sections. Follow-up "The Salt in My Hands" is actually one of the better numbers when it slows down the tempo in favor of stylish tremolo-picked rhythms and a chugging rhythm section that plods along quite nicely but knows when to pick up the energy in spurts even if it spends most of the time heavily chugging away. "Where All Flesh is Soil" tends to be even more restrained and down-tempo with a lot of plodding, sluggish sections driven by the tremolo-picked riffs and blasting drum-work that becomes more influenced by Black Metal as it goes along without too much of the traditional Swedish-styled riffing. The sprawling epic "Ett Liv I Träldom" gets it right with a sparkling mixture of chugging riff-work, tremolo-picked melodies and sprawling tempo changes that keep the tight, brutal riffs in check while furthering the attempts at including the faster tempos into the epic, sprawling music and comes off incredibly well because of that. The album’s best track, "May the Worms Have Mercy on My Soul," seems to encapsulate everything about the album in a defined package, offering charging buzzsaw riffing, tight drumming and thunderous paces alongside sprawling tempos and slower melodies, a relatively fine mix that puts everything together in one place for a truly enjoyable track. Many of these elements find themselves repeated in the title track which causes this to become a secondary highlight and form a devastating back-to-back-to-back threesome of great tracks in the middle of the album. As well, "Sirens of Lampedusa" is another mixture track that highlights the more slower sections with fine up-tempo riffs and the final rattling closer "Cure Us from Life" is one of the harder tracks with an absolutely furious approach and stellar assaults. In the end, while it doesn’t really do much to isolate itself from the community their attack manages to sound decent and oddly engaging for many listens, creating a rather enjoyable if indistinguishable mark.