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.
Two bands, two sophomore albums. It kind of feels like I’m about to introduce two gladiators into Thunderdome, but the truth is all I really want to do is expose you to some loud and angry music that will take a shitty day and maybe not make it better, but at least give you something to match the pounding of the pulse in your skull. Sometimes we don’t want anything more than a voice to match our rage, a blast to pace our anger and a ground up dirty riff to sink our beaten down souls into. And this edition of Second Circle has you covered with DRÅP and Timeworn, so lets throw down.
Check out that album cover, and listen to the crusty guitar assault that immediately strikes a primal chord in your being. Am I the only one getting a serious Napalm Death vibe with Roten Till Allt Ont, the new album by Swedish crust/punk/death/grind boys DRÅP? There’s something to be said for how effectively the Swedes have been rocking the HM-2 since the 90s, and DRÅP are no different. Formed in 2013 with the original goal of recording a record dedicated to vocalist Joachim Lyngfelt’s mother who died of cancer, the raw intensity of debut En Naturlig Död in 2014 paved the way to touring the European circuit and honing the already nasty bite to a fine edge to record Roten Till Allt Ont, translated as “The Roots of All Evil,” a title that fits nicely with the searing heat of vitriol the album spews out.
With eight songs clocking in at just over 30 minutes, it feels like the perfect length, a timed punch to the gut that leaves you sweaty and gasping for air before diving back in to feel the numbing tingle, the blood running over your top lip. I can’t tell you what track like opener “Ner på Knä” and “Hat för en Livstid” are about, but I can tell you that they nail the slower, death moments of Napalm Death and Rotten Sound (particularly the Napalm cover album, no surprise there). But more than any one band, DRÅP nails that kickass Swedish death sound that grabs you around the throat and chokes you out. That’s what I want out of Roten Till Allt Ont, and that’s what it gives me: the quick and brutal release of a neck snapping metal attack that doesn’t have any interest in reinventing the wheel so much as throwing that motherfucker in your face.
Hailing from Norway, Timeworn excel in a darker, more atmospheric kind of heaviness. Meshing components of sludge and post-metal, they arrived on the scene in 2015 with Luminescent Wake. Leviathan riffs are interspersed with moody guitar lines and an abundance of space that showed a raw promise that comes more into focus with new album Venomous High. This focus is what always draws me to second albums: it’s amazing to hear what happens when you have a level of touring under your belts and time to marinate and congeal as a band. The expansion of different moods and accents in Venomous High shows Timeworn aren’t content to simply replicate what they did before, you can hear the growth and development in opening track “Measure of Gold” as it compares in structure to the previous album’s “A Fair Warning” – the concept and overall structure is the same, but there’s a maturation and focus with the newer tracks that just weren’t possible before.
Things take a turn with the second track, “All Chiefs” which has a syncopated attack that doesn’t relent. “The Trail” is a short segue leading to the lurch of “Black Peak Blues” but in its short time it sets up an entirely different perspective from which to listen. Which in turn prepares you for the actual blues-influenced riffing on “The Infectious Gloom” which has a curious momentum in its start/stop verses. Keep going and you can hear the echoes of early Kylesa and Baroness in standout track “Night of Owls” in the way the guitar licks bump against the chords and lead into a back and forth between open riffs and the familiar chug that is the lifeblood of any metalhead. Venomous High provides a banquet of influences that rage and move within darker currents, allowing your hate and anger to thrum and hum against your skin until it slowly dissipates with a smear of black.
Save your fancy wordplay, your odd time signatures and three octave ranges for another day. Sometimes you get so mad you just want the world around you to acknowledge your rage and pain and feed it back in kind with the kind of music that will smile as it kicks your teeth in, or embrace you even as it pulls you under the current. DRÅP and Timeworn did that for me this week – maybe it’ll do the same to you.