Vastum – Hole Below

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Vastum’s second album Patricidal Lust (20 Buck Spin) made quite an impact when it was released in 2013, offering Death Metal fans who weren’t convinced by the Portal-inspired trend towards abstract dissonance a more conventional but equally engaging alternative. It also made waves due to Vastum’s unorthodox use of sex and relationships as lyrical content, though it has to be said that they address those topics in a straight-forwardly Death Metal way – when their new album opens with a track called ‘Sodomitic Malevolence’, you know we’re talking World’s Greatest Love Songs.

After two years of waiting, Hole Below (20 Buck Spin) continues both the band’s fascination with the dark side of human relationships (‘In Sickness And In Death’, ‘Empty Breast’) and their mastery of cavernous but melodic morbid Death Metal. Vastum’s sound is much more rooted in DM orthodoxy than Portal and their imitators, but this is no crude exercise in “Old School” revivalism, either. A thick, powerful production enhances song-writing that forges Autopsy’s murky melodies to solid, punishing grooves and even a touch of the abyssal atmospheres explored by many modern Death Metal bands.

Hole Below sees Vastum explore their Doom and atmospheric elements more deeply than they did on Patricidal Lust, and the result is an album that perhaps lacks a little of its predecessors instant appeal, but which rewards perseverance. Big, decayed riffs drown in treacly feedback are still the core of their sound, but songs are structured less for violence and more for a slow-building of atmosphere.

Along with Cruciamentum, Vastum have produced some of the best straight-up Death Metal of the year. Not as brutal, as abstract or as alienating as some, but firmly treading a path which embraces Death Metal’s past as well as its future.

 

8.0/10

RICHIE HR

Cruciamentum – Charnel Passages

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Don’t look now, but I think Profound Lore are starting to resent being thought of as the home of abstract, pretentious “artistic” Death Metal. Though Cruciamentum may lack the ludicrous-beyond-all-reason extremity of labelmates Pissgrave, they open their debut full-length with a thunderous assault of the kind of crusty, punishing Death Metal that can cause your hands to lock permanently into claws if you’re not careful.

Which is not to suggest that Charnel Passages (Profound Lore) is wilfully stupid or simplistic. There’s some very effective use of atmospherics going on beneath the pummelling assault, and the seven tracks all make good use of their extended running time, not outstaying their welcome over eight or nine minute stretches. The core elements of Cruciamentum’s musical alphabet, however, are as crude and unsophisticated as their name would make you hope – ugly, Celtic Frost tinged riffing; unrelenting beats; grimly indecipherable vocals.

The price for Death Metal’s recent renaissance is a pressure on every band to fit neatly into a particular category and not get in each other’s way. Old School Death Metal? Sit over there, please. Brutal Slamming Death Metal? Sit in the corner and try not to drool on the floor. Pretentious Arty Tentacles Death Metal? On the ceiling, by the man with the clock on his head. On Charnel Passages, Cruciamentum remind us that Death Metal can be atmospheric, brutal and cavernous at the same time without having to buy into a particular aesthetic.

A decisive, unrepentant statement of intent from a young band with a clear sense of identity already, Charnel Passages is not only bound to be one of the genre’s high points in 2015, it’s a fitting reminder that Profound Lore’s reputation for quality is not built on anticipating any one trend.

 

8.0/10

(which is also the number of times I’ve said “Death Metal” in this review)

 

RICHIE HR

Sepulchral Temple – Sepulchral Temple

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Originally released last year on truer-than-thou label Iron Bonehead Productions on 12” vinyl, multi-national three-piece Sepulchral Temple evidently thought their debut self-titled EP hadn’t reached enough ears, so 2014 sees a CD release on Invictus Productions. Featuring new artwork along with a couple of rather pointless outro tracks tacked on after each song, this re-issue is still a welcome treat, for Sepulchral Temple is an act with lots of potential. Playing the kind of Incantation-worshipping, ancient sounding Death Metal popularised by the likes of Grave Miasma and Cruciamentum, the two lengthy tracks on Sepulchral Temple reveal more with each listen and have their own distinct identity.

First track ‘Salvific Dance’ begins with a weird, high-pitched lead melody, gut-wrenching screams and a sinister marching riff that draws the listener deep into the bowels of the temple before the pace and intensity dramatically increases. The tempo then varies from bone-rattling speed to doom-leaden crawl while the deranged vocals contribute to the overbearing atmosphere of Lovecraftian madness.

The self-titled second track is much more aggressive with its repetitive vocal lines and sinister marching riff giving proceedings a ceremonial feel. Imagine Dead Congregation and Necros Christos summoning an ancient, evil god in a filth-smeared shrine and you have an idea of what’s going on here.

While this kind of Death Metal is gaining in prominence with several bands popping up recently who are eager to demonstrate just how worn out their copies of Onward to Golgotha (Relapse) are, we shouldn’t complain for the grim atmosphere and sense of macabre dread lurking in these recordings are necessary to ensure that this genre remains extreme and underground. SepulchralTemple may be a little late to the ceremony but they deserve their place at the altar all the same.

7.0/10

Sepulchral Temple of Facebook

JAMES CONWAY