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.
It’s almost July and we’ve eclipsed the mid point of 2021. It has been one hell of a year thus far in the world of metal and as usual, it has followed the hellish landscape we’ve all been trying to live in, but no news there as music generally follows whatever fresh hell we find ourselves in and rides the anger and angst surrounding it all. We’ve definitely weathered some pre-apocalypse type shit and somehow, the world still turns. So, enough small talk. This edition of Second Circle focuses on the likeminded obliteration of Withered and Diabolizer who both find a way to sever any thoughts of happy endings.
I’ve been a fan of Atlanta’s Withered since day one and pre-debut Memento Mori. See, this is technically a local band to me so I had the pleasure of seeing this band of merry soul crushers long before they were a gleam in the world’s eye. Between the strikingly bleak black / doom / death onslaught of said debut and further down the spiral of follow up Folie Circulaire, the jarring and seemingly on purpose attempt to keep passers by at arms length approach just spoke volumes to me. It was a sound I instantly identified with and a sound that exemplified my definition of extreme when I was searching for the utmost of same. Dualitas and Grief Relic were great, but lost a bit of the hopeless feel of album’s past. And, by their own admission, they grew tired of the southern doom explosion off the heels of Folie and went the opposite way into more blackened death pastures. Good for them, but you just don’t know what you’re missing until it’s gone. And, until Verloren, I had no idea just how much that little doom touch meant to this band and my affection for how bad ass their first two albums were.
I’ll absolutely go on record in saying this album is the best thing Withered have ever created. Period. The amalgamation of black, death, and—finally—doom metal is at its best here and the atmosphere it creates is also at its best and bleakest. This is devoid of any light, happiness, structure, melody, and is an absolute soul destroyer with zero let up and zero opportunities to catch a breath. Sure, there’s a couple of throttling back moments but one of these is care of Primitive Man’s Ethan McCarthy so put that in your pipe and smoke it. “The Predation” borders on grindcore with a gnarly twist of doom, “Casting In Wait” rips and tears with smokin’ guitar work and a deadly cadence, and “…The Long Hurt” is straight forward black metal that got caught up in a horrific meth bender, and that’s just getting warmed up. This band has dealt directly with loss since the beginning and have been able to put to tape just how devastating it is to experience and even though we had a two album sidestep, things have come full circle back to their roots. And, somehow, they’ve bested everything in their past. This is not the album to put on and kick back to, but it is the album to put on when looking for the sort of terrifying extreme you won’t find anywhere else.
This album came to me by a good friend that knows my love of speedy but brutal death metal bands such as Vitriol, Deicide, Hate Eternal, and Nile that all know full well how to channel the evil side of the genre and make death metal from the lens of art in lieu of just brute force for the sake of it. Turkish band Diabolizer only have an EP to their name, but now with Khalkedonian Death, this band should quickly become a household name in any house that flies the death metal flag, but furthermore appreciates the finer aspects of the genre.
Tracks like opener “Dawn of Obliteration” and “Cloaked In An Aura of Madness” recall the exploratory-by-way-of-barbaric nature of Deicide while “Maelstroms of Abhorrence” strike up fond memories of the kind of brutality that only early Deeds of Flesh could pull off. “Sulphuric Vengeance” is an axe to the face in terms of sheer speed and venom while “Spearfuck the Throes of Treason” offers some respite by way of slower tempos and a moment to actually take it all in. This is an album that is deadly, smart, slick, full of captivating songwriting and performances, and will damn sure make even the most seasoned death metal listeners take notice. Again, it’s the death metal as an art form that this band nails and because of this they’ve taken me by storm and hit me at a time when I was starving for this exact kind of death metal. Needless to say, this is the best example of balls out death metal that 2021 has given us thus far and I’m all here for it, you should be too.