posted on 9/2007 By:
In the underworld of old-school, no-frills death metal, the bands that reside in the shadows are divided by a fine line. On one side rests the uninspired legions who are content to copy the past masters without bringing anything fresh to the slaughter; the bands that are content to worship at the altars (of madness) while remaining mired in stagnation, unable to rise above the swarm and craft a worthy chunk of metal. The other side is home to those that are strong enough to carry the torch; their lack of innovation is offset by the power of the almighty riff, and they move the genre forward simply by keeping the roots of death metal ingrained within us. Godless Rising sits on the latter side, seething with hatred, and they’ve lobbed a cannonball over the fence in the form of Battle Lords.
Featuring ex-Vital Remains pain dealers Jeff Gruslin on vocals and Paul Flynn on guitar (who has since left the fold), Battle Lords is a crushing work of head-down, furrowed-brow death driving. The band’s focus belies their brief tenure as a collective; these guys are veterans, and it shows in their work. In particular, Gruslin’s guttural bellow fucking dominates, and is truly the disc’s highlight. The chunky title cut, centered on his sickening, drawn-out expulsions ("Battle Looooooooooooooooooooooords!"), plays like a textbook on how this type of thing should be executed. Got a short-haired, fresh-faced friend that won’t shut the hell up about how “brutal” Beneath The Massacre is? Throw on this band, point at the speaker, and at the peak of one of Gruslin’s obscenely powerful grunts, tell him, forcefully, “This is how it’s done, man.” The entire lesson, bass guitar and all, is wrapped up in a thick, appropriately nasty production that brings the vocals to the forefront while arming the other instruments with suitable heft.
But, for all of their evil heroics, the brutal truth is that some of these cuts slice a hell of a lot deeper than others. “Heathens Rage” and “Sadistic Ritual Carnage” do the most damage, with their emphasis on deliberate groove and memorable hooks. This band is at its best when locked into a Bolt Thrower-esque rut of wrecking, and not when they jack up the speed. When they punch the gas pedal, screws start to shake loose, as on “Conflict From Within”, which clips along with an awkward gait that accentuates the band’s slight weaknesses. Also, more of Flynn’s manic, atonal lead work would’ve been tasty, but with the advent of his departure, beggars can’t be choosers, can they?
Really, what is there to say about a meat-and-potatoes, 90’s-bred death metal album? Either it rocks the socks, or it sucks the…um, yeah. For the most part, Godless Rising kills. The aforementioned “Sadistic Ritual Carnage” is one of the best DM songs of the year, and while the rest of the album doesn’t hit with immediacy, it’ll grow on you like a leprotic sore. Definitely not something that bears religious rotation, due to the lack of variation throughout the course of the running length, but Battle Lords provides a certain fix that has been dealt out only sparingly this year.
This is a thick-fisted, grime-soaked punch in the throat from a group of death metal stalwarts…one that’ll fit snugly next to Rise To Dominate in your shopping cart.
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