Continuing the theme which occupied much of 2021’s Resurgence (Nuclear Blast) album, Floridian death metal act Massacre returns with four more tracks based on the works of influential Rhode Island science fiction horror author HP Lovecraft.
It’s always a musical cause for concern whenever an Extreme Metal band feels the need to sensationalize their genre (or subgenre for that matter). The Grotesquery referring to their sound as “Occult Death Metal” gave me plenty of uncertain pause heading into The Lupine Anathema (Xtreem Music). Continue reading
After subjecting us to a pointless intro that neither builds tension nor sets up the rest of the album (why do bands do this?) Death Curse (Dark Descent) hurtles into the title track with a feral blackened thrash riff that sets the tone for what is to follow over the remaining 35 minutes, a Repulsion inspired rager with a driving D-beat.
With deathly intent, the guitars of Hell Messiah and the wonderfully named C.C. DeKill rage and bluster through the rest of the album in the vein of Sodom, Venom and Kreator, with the odd nod to more Black Metal Bathory, particularly the middle section of ‘Unending Lust For Evil’.
It’s easy to feel this is nothing new, but the band would undoubtedly feel that “something new” is not the point, the point is worshipping at the altar of the old-school. Interestingly, though it is when Gravehill change things up that they reap the benefits, launching into a punky, bass-led ‘Fear The Reaper’, or slowing things down to an Autopsy slab-heavy stab for ‘Open Their Throats’ that they really distinguish themselves.
The problem for Gravehill is that there are too many bands around doing this. Some have been doing it for 30 years and are well established and worshipped, others are just better (Skeletonwitch, Aura Noir). There’s plenty of endeavour and spirit evident on Death Curse but with Mike Abomination’s vocals missing the mark and being unintentionally funny as his delivery turns into a weak throaty gargle more often than he hits the beastly roars, Gravehill have some work to do still.
For such a raw and energetic album Death Curse is well produced, which, while giving the riffs added “neck” and beef, further highlights Abomination’s short-comings, as he’s well and truly shown up by Kam Lee (Massacre) on ‘Unending Lust…’.
Yet, you feel Gravehill don’t care. The core of their ethos is middle-finger up and tongue in cheek. They’re happy churning out 30 year old riffs in homage to their heroes, wearing their leather, bullets and spikes.
And who can begrudge them that.
6.5 / 10
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It has been 23 years since Rick Rozz and Terry Butler last released anything of note under the banner of Massacre, and that two decades plus hiatus has allowed their debut From Beyond to achieve the legendary status its Bay Area-meets-Death quality deserves, a great collection of straight down the line death metal songs that set the tone for literally millions of bands to follow.
With such an iconic release in their catalogue, but with years of less than stellar activity individually, expectations for Back From Beyond (Century Media) are mixed. The first thing that strikes is the powerful production as guitars barrel out of the traps (once the pointless intro has meandered on by) into ‘As We Wait To Die’. New vocalist Ed Webb does a decent enough job, sounding like (the heavier of) Burton C. Bell (‘s voices), but lacking the distinctive and charismatic tones of non-returnee Kam Lee.
While Massacre always leant to the thrashy, (pre-Chaos AD) Sepultura end of American Death Metal, it’s interesting to see how much groove and chug metal is in their newer sound; ‘Hunters Blood’ wouldn’t be out of place on a Lamb of God album. That isn’t to say the trademark Massacre DM has been abandoned, as ‘Ascension of the Deceased’ throwback like a Thursday, ‘Shield Of The Son’ thrash-snaps the neck, while ‘Evil Within’ and ‘Beast With Vengeance’ pay homage to Chuck.
Sticking resolutely in the mid-tempo and to a simple but effective riffing style with only the odd venture out of their stomping ground, Back From Beyond settles into a pattern of mixing late 90’s groove with old school Death Metal riffing. In the main, with each track in isolation, it works to good effect, but as a whole due to a lack of dynamics and colour, no track to rival a ‘Cryptic Realms’ and an overly long running order (14 tracks!? You have to be amazing to stay interesting for 14 tracks!) Back From Beyond is an enjoyable, solid yet unspectacular return. Nothing to rival From Beyond but serves as a better follow-up than (the-Massacre-album-that-shall-not-be-named).
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