Diabolical Messiah – Demonic Weapons Against the Sacred

Big hooks and big tremolo riffs  are the first thing to come to mind listening to Diabolical Messiah’s second studio album; throughout the album’s short duration, those two are the defining characteristics of the Chilean veterans’ songwriting along with the nearly constant roar of the band’s vocalist. Almost every song is a brief burst of fire, burning bright and then ending after alternating and repeating the same two or three riffs in a manner reminiscent of Nunslaughter in approach, if not in sound, with nine of the ten songs on the twenty five minute album being around three minutes long or shorter. In contrast to the relatively simplistic composition, a lot of the best riffs are catchy and well-written long form melodies that draw me in consistently, demanding attention after shorter sections of ripping shorter riffs that range from the more chaotic sounds of Incantation’s fastest riffs to reminding me of Sadistic Intent and to things that are unique to Diabolical Messiah.

Despite the fact that most of the album is right around the same tempo and despite the fact that the drumming is nearly constantly doing similar blasting patterns, Diabolical Messiah know when to ride a series of short phrases and when to shift to a melody (or to do one of the relatively few slow parts) in order to keep memorability at a maximum and keep listeners engaged. Sparse harmonization adds flavor without being overused enough to start feeling saccharine, and the guitar tone and production are massive enough to really let the guitars carry the album; though death metal at its best is often a combination of catchy vocal lines, heavy and interesting drum patterns, and sick riffs, Demonic Weapons Against the Sacred is, by virtue of the fantastic guitarwork overlaid over repetitive drumming and vocals, a fundamentally riff-centric album. While this would often be a bit of a detriment to me, the songwriting here is strong enough to keep me coming back consistently, and after a few months of listening, to it, I can’t recommend the album enough.  Demonic Weapons Against the Sacred is a great accomplishment for Diabolical Messiah, and yet another excellent addition to the Dark Descent Records catalog.

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Lantern – II: Morphosis

This has been a great year for both Dark Descent Records and for fans of death metal, and Lantern have provided with II: Morphosis an excellent addition to both groups. Strange, atmospheric, and with a lot of subtle layering and melodies, Lantern is one of the more compelling and ambitious of the recent Finnish death metal bands, and their return with their second full length album is absolutely welcome. They have a talent for lengthy and complex composition, a fantastic and multitalented drummer (who is also the guitarist and bassist), and a willingness to sometimes completely abandon strange atmospheric sections to have periods of crushing death metal that sets them aside from many of their peers as a unique and captivating entity to be watched. Vocalist Necrophilos has an incredible voice that’s unique and powerful, howling over the music that Cruciatus has so adeptly written.

Right from the first song on the album, Black Miasma, the tone for the future material is set: sections of spacey, psychedelic trippiness, soundscapes of awful terror, ripping death metal, and sections that crawl down almost to being death/doom; from there, the entire album continues in its vein. That being said, each song has its own unique flavor, with the main focus being the interesting guitarwork, which ranges from crushing rhythms to great sections where both guitars are doing entirely different things to fantastic soloing. The lyrics, which I normally don’t focus on much, are also very well written (albeit with a sometimes humorous focus on rhyme scheme), and Necrophilos’ voice lets you hear each word clearly without straining.

“Is this where I shall witness my last?
Is this the way my days are bound to pass away;
In despair and solemnly aghast?”

As a final note, the production is as solid as you’d expect from Dan Lowndes, and the cover art is fucking phenomenal.

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Image source: https://darkdescentrecords.bandcamp.com/album/ii-morphosis

 

Ascended Dead – Abhorrent Manifestation

Abhorrent Manifestation can’t be shoehorned into a single line, but if I had to do so, it’d be to call it an amazing showcase of ripping primordial death metal devastation. Now that my favorite newer San Diego based extreme metal band have finally given us a full length release this year, it’s easy to see that Ascended Dead have been refining their approach through the years between their first demo and this album. Continuing in line with their prior material (and reusing three songs from said earlier material), Abhorrent Manifestation rips right into full bore right from the start, blasting through sections that sound as angry, chaotic, and uncompromising as any death metal has ever been. The only real break is a pretty acoustic instrumental halfway through the album, letting listeners up a bit before cutting through listeners like a scythe all over again.

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Image Source: Ascended Dead’s website

The sharp and technical leads that constantly pop up over the blistering rhythms remind me of Morbid Angel on a bender mixed with the aggressive insanity of Necrovore, and CK’s relentless, powerful drumming showcases exactly why he was recruited to Funebrarum. Insane solos break away with swirling madness before vanishing as quickly as they came, while the howling vocals roar over the whole thing with the power and anger needed to drive this sort of music, always perfectly complimenting the vicious instrumentals. The whole thing is tied together by the excellent production that the album has, which keeps the aural assault from becoming exhausting or from blending together.

The main deal breaker for most bands that attempt a similar form of music is that they don’t have the songwriting chops to make their music remain interesting or memorable, but Ascended Dead have none of that problem, using their expertise from years of writing music both for Ascended Dead and for earlier bands to forge the raging songs that they play. The band describe their music as “dark, chaotic, demonic, bestial Death Metal, without limitations” and I’d say that they’ve certainly accomplished that. While the music is in a lot of ways fundamentally rooted in death metal’s early history, Ascended Dead are clearly looking towards the future.

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