Born out of former members of Morgue and Temporal Bleed, Chicago-based death metal outfit Unnatural will soon be dropping their debut EP The Path to Ruin through Horror Pain Gore Death. With no inclination toward anything to do with modern death metal, The Path to Ruin is a simple, no-frills EP that relies on the weight of its delivery rather than any kind of inventiveness. It’s ridiculously primitive and bare-bones, almost to a fault, but it’s still an engaging listen, even if its value doesn’t go much beyond a few cursory spins.
With the revival of old-school death metal in full swing, there are two kinds of OSDM revival bands: The kind who plays in the old style but still have production values and songwriting rooted in present day, and those who deliberately sidestep any modern conventions to firmly plant their feet in the heyday of the late 80s and early 90s. Unnatural are stubbornly in the latter camp. The production is murky but raw, the guitars with a trebly fuzz to them that still has a low-end punch locking step with the kick drum and gnarled bass lines. The vocals are about as classic death metal grunt as it gets, hearkening to the days before sissies started learning how to growl the “right” way to save their precious little throats. It’s a grimy, dirty sound, and even if it comes off sounding like an unmixed, straight-to-soundboard rehearsal, it works out for the vibe Unnatural are aiming for.
The Path to Ruin recalls the days when death metal riffs were chunky, palm-muted exercises in audio destruction and when death metal kids were still hanging tight with those in the hardcore scene. Opening track “Consuming Wretchedness” especially relies on its Coffin-like grooves to carry the song forward, and “Those Who Mourn” dips into semi-melodic territory, recalling some of early Bolt Thrower’s more epic moments. The entire EP is a thoroughly groovy affair, only utilizing blast beats and faster sections during the last two tracks, “Exalted” and the fittingly titled “The End.” You won’t find any solos here, no overtly technical wankfests, just unfiltered heaviness.
If this sounds like your thing (e.g., shameless nostalgia and intentionally cretinous death metal), you’ll dig The Path to Ruin. I can’t help but feel, though, that The Path to Ruin is less than the sum of its parts. It’s almost comedically simplistic in execution, and while the songs are delivered proficiently, there is literally nothing that makes The Path to Ruin sound any different from a Six Feet Under demo (or any death metal demo, for that matter). It’s simple, fun death metal with a stubbornly primitive approach, but that doesn’t make it a stellar release. Not to say that it’s total novelty, but quite simply, it doesn’t have a lot of staying power.