Wrath and disgust and complete lack of anything redeemable all are wrapped into what makes so much death metal feel so right. Missing those elements means you likely are creating hollow art, because there is a heartlessness to so much modern death metal. But when a band gets it right, it makes the juices flow and the anger and fury rage inside.
Swedish death unit Vanhelgd have been making horrifying art for nearly a decade now, and now that they’re four albums in, the latest being “Temple of Phobos,” it’s safe to say we can rely on anything this band commits to wax, for they know the ways of chaos. That might sound like a silly thing to say on the surface, but shit, I get a lot of really bad death metal promos. They’re easy to dismiss with a single listen (or just a few songs), but when something like Vanhelgd comes along, you abandon everything else and immerse yourself in their dark ways. This is one of those bands that, if someone asks me for good modern death metal bands to check out, I’m nearly 100 percent certain to name drop. This new record “Temple of Phobos” just solidifies that thinking as it is furious and smoke filled, choking everything in their path every step of the way.
Vanhelgd have a firm grasp on the death metal that filled so many lives with morbid joy decades ago, smearing a nice dose of doom into their proceedings and coating your lungs with soot. The group—guitarist/vocalist Matthias “Flesh” Frisk, guitarist/vocalist Jimmy Johansson, bassist Jonas Albrektsson, and drummer Bjorn Andersson—began clawing their way through death metal’s filthy underground with their 2008 debut “Cult of Lazarus,” later unleashing more torment on 2011’s “Church of Death” and 2014’s eye-opening “Relics of Sulfur Salvation,” an album jointly released by Pulverised and U.S.-based label 20 Buck Spin. “Phobos” is another album that’s getting pushed from multiple labels as Pulverised again will handle duties in Europe, while Dark Descent brings it to North American audiences. It’s a devastating, relentless crusher that again proves death metal is virulent when in the right hands.
“Lamentations of the Mortals” is the burly opener, with guttural growls and guitars churning to bring you into the mouth of hell. The track is vicious as it scrapes along, doing horrible damage, leading into tar pits of miserable doom that chugs to the finish. “Religion of the Iniquitous” has leads chewing flesh and then breathing fire, with mean and sooty playing and horrifying growling. The vocals later unleash sprays of venom, with the band hitting the gas pedal and launching speed, with everything coming to an abrupt end. “Den Klentrogenes Klagan” spills doom blood, with eerie choral parts adding an extra dose of haunting misery, and the verses positively scathing. Chants emerge, as if a death cult has arrived and is preparing to haul off the bodies, and the band launches calculating bashing to bring this to a close. The title cut trudges furiously, with leads spiraling, the music boiling, and the growls bruising. The track is animalistic and bloodthirsty, with the band setting up a mechanical, clubbing ending.
“Gravens Lovsna ng” has lead guitar work that burns monstrously, with slow, doomy pounding dropping cement blocks, and a chugging pace raining down black death. Later, the soloing arrives and chars flesh, but then some melody slips its way in, something that isn’t a constant with this band. But hey, they can be mildly accessible from time to time, before they turn on the furnace again and push the devastation into the darkness. “Rejoice in Apathy” unleashes the hammers and enters guttural realms, with the music slicing up arteries and the doom clogging throats, as the wails of, “Rejoice in apathy!” bruise your eyes. Closer “Allt hopp är förbi” starts with guitars buzzing, with a gravelly, heavy assault, and darkly melodic tributaries being carved. A female voice enters the fray, infusing a sense of frightening beauty to the song, and then the slowly mangling tempo crushes your face into the ground and fills your throat with cinders. But don’t turn off the record! Minutes later, a mystery track bubbles up, pushing several more minutes of terror into your face.
Vanhelgd aren’t going to win any awards for polish or beauty. Fuck it, leave that shit to the pretenders blocking up what’s left of big-box CD shelves. This band is here to maim and terrify, and they do that during the entire running time of “Temple of Phobos.” This band only has eyes for shedding blood and eviscerating morals, and they’ll be damned if they stop before they poison every soul.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/vanhelgd
To buy the album, go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/store/
Or here: http://pulverised.bigcartel.com/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/
And here: http://www.pulverised.net/