As close as we are to the year coming to an end, 2012 just won’t release us from its grasp. It feels like the month has been the longest ever, and we’re only five days into it. Coming up with fresh content in December is a total bitch, and usually it’s clean-up land, but we’ve been saved from that today by the wonderful throes of death.
No one’s dead. That I know of. But we do have two brand new death metal albums to discuss that still are due in stores near you (or your mailbox if you buy from the source itself online), and both of them come from Finnish beasts. They also come courtesy of Dark Descent, a label that’s been on an impressive roll all year long and has consistently been one of my favorite sources of music for all of 2012. They’ve become one of those labels that, when their promos arrive, I drop what I’m doing and get to them immediately.
The one negative of releasing new work from Maveth and Desolate Shrine so late in the year is that they’re not going to be up for most outlets’ best-of lists — except ours, that is, because we don’t finalize our list until the last possible second on purpose — and both albums certainly will blow your doors off in one way or another. And while, yes, both groups are death metal through and through, there are noticeable differences between the two bands so that you’re not being drubbed by two groups with the same formula.
We’ll kick off with Maveth, whose new record “Coils of the Black Earth” is their first full-length effort, following an EP, demo, and compilation brought your way by labels such as Nuclear Winter Records and Aural Offerings. Their sound is filthy and mean, and their music is a total bludgeoning experience. Of the two bands, they’re the heaviest and most to the point, so you can kind of lay back and get your ass totally kicked without worrying about too many curveballs.
The members of Maveth also dot another noted death band Cryptborn, who have a couple EPs to their name, as well as a few other bands in which they sharpened their vicious teeth. Maveth is made up of guitarist Mikko Karvinen, bassist Jani Nupponen, drummer Ville Markkanen, and, of course, vocalist Christbutcher. No surname for the butcher, though it would be amazing if it was Johnson or Kirkpatrick or something. Together, they make an infernal, sooty sound hammered home by Christbutcher’s authoritative, hellish growls that make it sound like he recorded his parts somewhere in a cave buried in the hottest region of the Earth’s crust. Sound like a silly description? Go listen and see that I’m right.
The 10-track, 57-minute album takes some energy to get through, but that’s not a bad thing. It rips open with “The Devourer Within the Gulf,” a 7:33-long serving of blackened death metal that also can be quite spooky at times and also sounds like what they might play on the train ride to hell. “Dragon of the Continuum” is growly, punchy, and massive, and the drum work is particularly explosive and rocky. “Hymn to Azael” is riff heavy and meaty, with guitar lines that hang in the air like a poisonous fog and a pace that treads violently. “Beneath the Sovereignty of Al-Ghul” is spidery and melodic. The whole thing is covered with lung-coating dirt and takes some time to let infection set in. “Hymn to the Black Matron,” however, explodes on impact.
“Sating Erictho” pretty much follows the same path as the rest of the album, delivering strong guitar buzzing and throat-mangling vocals, while the title cut is tricky and grindy, totally damaged in spots, and blindingly storming in other areas. You don’t know whether to patch holes or run for cover. “To Seed the Succubi” goes back to being mind-baffling, as the composition takes some chances and dares to slip away from the carved path. The music is cloudy and machine-like, hell-bent on destruction, and totally content to leave you a heaving pile. The dual “Terminus” tracks close out the album as a nice one-two punch to the mouth, with fast riffs, gruff vocals, and one more face-first fall into an ash pit in hell, the place at the center of these two songs.
This is a nice debut long player by Maveth, one that offers zero mercy and plows ahead for total body count. I’d like to hear a little more of the experimentation next time around, as that’s when the album is the most interesting, but this is a worthy first shot in what’s sure to be a lengthy assault by this Finnish quartet.
Desolate Shrine are no less mean or hellbound than Maveth, but they tend to spread out their infamy and imagination over a larger canvas of horror on “The Sanctum of Human Darkness.” They keep things active and ever-changing, always remembering to bloody your face with their death metal tendencies, but also refusing to give in to formula or expectations. This is a record that will keep you up at night, not only because of the dark, negative subject matter, but also because of the horrific compositions this trio sprawls out on this record, their second overall.
The band itself is almost as interesting and their dark crafts. LL handles all instrumentation for the band, a gigantic task considering how many layers of chaos are stacked up onto this thing, and he also produces the shadowy artwork. RS (also of Lie in Ruins and Perdition Winds) and ML (Famulus ab Satanus, Lord of Pagathorn, Urn, etc.) provide the strange, lurching vocal work, weaving their horrific stories so seamlessly. It’s near impossible to tell where one person’s tale ends and the other begins. Often, they seem intertwined.
“Corridor: Human Altar” is your first taste of the ugliness this band unfurls on this record, with grimy, damaged build-up, and a landslide of terror before it slips into quiet acoustic and calm. And it’s just the opening interlude. “Plane of Awake: Dreams Over Angel-Serpent Tower” is filthy, slithering and doomy, with lurching growls, an insane tornado and chaos, and eventually a rough and crushing underbelly that blows your face off. “Pillars of Salvation: The Drowned Prince” has dizzying guitars, charred melodies, and mashed thrashing, with growling like RS and ML are gargling on their own blood. “Lair of Wolf & 1,000 Lions: Nine Forgotten Names” is nine minutes of madness, evil intentions, swirling and hazy melodies, and channeled punishment.
“Old Man’s Visit” is the eerie introduction to the second half of the album, with a ghostly furnace of noise and suffocating static. “Chalice of Flesh and Bone: The Eminence of Chaos” begins with a red herring, as piano notes drop and a calm sweeps over. And then it’s ripped to shreds, as crunchy riffing and exploratory trails unfurl before you and pull you screaming into “Demon Heart: The Desolate One,” a 9:35-long slab of smoldering doom, dizzying intensity, and inhuman growls and shrieks that sound scraped from the throat of a torture victim. Closer “Funeral Chamber” has black metal-style guitars, a penetrating attack, and the absolute essence of hopelessness, as lonely, chilling bells stand as the final sounds you hear.
If I had to choose a favorite of these two bands, it would be Desolate Shrine. I love the darkness, the mystery, and the ambition, plus so much of this record is legitimately scary and psychologically challenging. This band has a great chance to be one of Dark Descent’s top bands, and with more albums as strong as “The Sanctum of Human Darkness,” they could soon be one of the standard bearers for all of death metal.
For more on Maveth, go here: http://maveth.com/
For more on Desolate Shrine, go here: https://www.facebook.com/desolateshrine
To buy the albums, go here:http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/store/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/