Book Of Black Earth
The Cold Testament
posted on 7/2011 By:
Since they're both signed to Prosthetic Records, I always sort of considered Withered and Book of Black Earth closely related, sister acts. Both initially played a sort of blackened death metal, but whereas Withered has recently forged ahead with a more discordant and sinister black metal sound, Seattle’s Book of Black Earth has further expanded their Swedish death metal influence and continued to meld it with a crusty doom noise, rather than with black metal. The result is an excellent follow-up to 2008s Horoskopus.
With a Stockholm revival in full swing and even US bands getting into the swing, adding a Sunlight buzz to your sound is in vogue nowadays. American bands like Trap Them, Nails, Black Breath, All Pigs Must Die, Invasion and of course Fatalist have all rendered their sound with a nice mid-range buzz, but with Book of Black Earth, it isn’t so much a full-on homage or cliché, but a passing, honest nod that doesn’t detract from their crusty doom take on death metal. Their sound never comes across as a forced Swedish death metal injection but just a natural twist on their own sound.
Even with a killer earthy tone and rumble, the band's songwriting and structures make them more than a retro Swedish fancy (as much as I love those acts). While still death metal at its very core, the songwriting has a gruffer, grittier thrash and crust backbone that sounds very American and very pure. Vocalist Rob Beebe is partially responsible with a simple, throaty roar that’s neither death metal, thrash nor hardcore, and musically Book of Black Earth has definitely moved away from any blackened death metal and is content to strip down their sound to a forceful crunchy heft and a d-beat trot that’s consistently impressive.
The 36-minute, 8-track album is full of very good riffs and structures that will keep you interested and coming back for repeated listens, but there’s just that shade of underachieving that keeps them from rising up in the US metal ranks like, say, Withered. The album starts forcefully enough with two very strong tracks in “Weight of the World”, and “Cross Contamination”, which both lean much more heavily on Stockholm-based structures and pummeling percussion. “Antarctica” throws the album's first slight curve ball with a warbling, straining riff and vocals that are a little too measured and restrained for me, and when the song does get going, it’s only for the last 30 seconds. But “Irritating Spectre” makes amends with the few remnants of any blackened death metal delivered with feral urgency and a sneaky melodic chorus and mid-section. (And what is an irritating spectre? a ghost that gives you noogies or a phantom that leaves the toilet seat up?)
“Termination” starts as a thrashy throwaway track, until about 2 minutes in where it turns into a moody, scrawling number with a religious diatribe via some sort of TV/radio interview. “Research and Destroy” might be the album's standout, being a pure, raucous d-beat assault with a groovy main riff to die for and a tense climax. I could have done without the short burst of “Road Dogs from Hell”, as it seemed a little out of place coming across like a juiced-up cover of a punk song, but the almost 8-minute closer “I See Demons” ends the album perfectly with a varied number that starts with some moody moments before unleashing a perfect combo of blast beats, grooves and an epic ending, resulting in the album's second standout.
Damn solid album.
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