In Dante’s Inferno, the second circle begins the proper punishment of Hell, a place where “no thing gleams.” It is reserved for those overcome with Lust, where carnal appetites hold sway over reason. In Nine Circles, it’s where we do shorter reviews of new (ish) albums that share a common theme.
Not only has the start of So Many Good Releases™ commenced in the metal world, but I’m losing an hour come tomorrow morning (no matter what our overly enthusiastic editor says about “gaining our days back”) so getting a chance to listen/absorb/transform back into words every single worthwhile release has become a bit of challenge. We here at Nine Circles are making plans to address that in the near future, but in the meantime I’ve got you covered with another Second Circle, this time featuring two death metal releases worth checking out by Engulfed and Condemned. So brush up on your vokills and let’s dig in.
I had to consult a map to see if any Swedish waterways routed through to Turkey, because “there’s something in the water” is my only conclusion for how Engulfed by Obscurity nails that old school death metal sound. If this is what’s coming out of the Turkish metal scene we need to be paying more attention. Featuring members from Decaying Purity and Burial Invocation, Engulfed came out with their debut EP Through the Eternal Damnation in 2012. Though the production is a bit murky, tracks like “Triumphs of the Impious” and “Supreme Lord of Blasphemy” show an attention to detail in both the execution and song titles for some wicked classic death metal.
Engulfed by Obscurity doesn’t change things too much, and that’s good because when the bones are already this good you just need to add some succulent flesh (sorry, I’m hungry as I’m writing this). What it does do is get a big bump up in the production, getting a much more distinct mix, giving the drums much more space to pound the life out you while the guitars buzz and rage. “The Halls of Grim Eternity” lay the foundation for everything else: massive slabs of death punctuated by the low guttural roar of vocalist/bassist Serkan. You get your slower, casket dragging sound in the opening to “Invocation of Death and Misery” before it lurches into a speeding gallop, taking a breath of air before diving back into the depths. Everything about Engulf’s sound hits you in that 90s Swedish Death metal muscle, and when it’s played this well, that’s all I can ask.
Ah, Unique Leader Records…you know if something comes out from them you’re getting ridiculously fast and technical death metal of the highest order. We’ve featured the label before in a Nine Circles ov… and it’s good to know the quality hasn’t slipped based on the latest from California’s Condemned. It’s been a few years since 2011’s Realms of the Ungodly which bore all the earmarks of the technical death metal the label puts out, but without anything that really made it stand out on the label, either (cool pig vocals, though). Since then the only original band member left was guitarist Steve Crow, who over the course of the six years leading up to His Divine Shadow rebuilt the band the from scratch and honed his song craft even further to produce a standout album in a heavily populated genre.
Everything on His Divine Shadow feels like an upgrade: Crow’s riff building is not only stronger but more confident, allowing more space and melody in songs like “Legion” and “Ascending the Spectral Thro” without sacrificing the speed and technicality that will have legions of YouTubers attempting to play along to. Recruiting vocalist Sam Townsley who appeared on their debut Desecrate the Vile a decade ago was a wise move — he brings a versatility to the vocals that better suit the progression in the song writing. And as important as the guitars are in this style of music, it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if the drummer can’t keep everything on track, and Tyson Jupin is a great addition to Condemned, making sure even at the fastest parts his timekeeping allows everything to stay unified. This is an album that can sit proudly along other ULR classics by the likes of Deeds of Flesh, Severed Survival, and Arkaik.
We haven’t even finished the first quarter of 2017 and the music is coming fast and furious. Damn this lost hour, I’m just going to have to find the time to get more of this brutality in my ears.