There’s no better feeling than getting in on the ground floor with a band that actually delivers. Formed from the ashes of the legendary Swedish death crew Nirvana 2002, Under the Church indisputably has the lineage in place to stand out in the ever–swelling sea of retro-sounding bands. On their debut full–length, Rabid Armageddon, it’s as if the old school of Swedish death is in session and the band puts together a pretty compelling lecture on how to bludgeon a listener to oblivion.
Undoubtedly there will be tons of comparisons to Dismember and Entombed with this album. But to simply dismiss them would be missing the point. While they share the same buzz saw guitar sound and punk influenced compositions, they are far from copy cats. From the onset, we get a taste of both the punk inclinations and melodic side of classic Swedeath, as a sneering groove permeates each and every track. On opener, “Sodomy and “Blasphemy” the band serves up balls out punk inspired drumming and distorted bass work. Later, “Triad ov Inquisitors” sinks into a slow, methodical pace early on, putting the listener into a trance with its heavy riffs and rhythmic percussion.
On both demo and EP alike, Under the Church had an aggressively raw sound and little in the way of production. Here, though, there’s a step up in the production that hones the edges to a sharp and shiny blade. The guitar tone slices through your eardrums, and the angular drumming drives the album forward with the intensity of a thousand devils. And vocalist Mik Annets truly is a splendid throwback. His deep throated growls would give any band of the first wave of Swedish death metal a run for their money.
Rabid Armageddon’s chock full of highlights, but the mid-album track, “Walpurgis Night,” stands out as the best representation of the band’s sound. The band mixes a melodic sensibility with a D-Beat hardcore influence for an easy slam dunk. The takeaway after several listens is that it never gets tiresome. The vocal hooks, driving beats and dirty sounding melodies all make a lasting impression.
Under the Church isn’t the only band resurrecting the old school but they are one of a select few that are extremely good at it. Extreme care does have to be taken when charting a genre as deep as this one but when an album nods to the past and, at the same time, sounds as fresh and new as Rabid Armageddon does it’s obvious the genre is in good and talented hands.