A Deadly Call From the Stars
posted on 10/2011 By:
Shub Niggurath (the name’s from Lovecraft, and I shall make no other comment) is the project of longtime member of The Chasm Julio Viterbo, and despite having been active since the late 80s, A Deadly Call from the Stars is only the band’s second full-length album, coming a whopping fourteen years (!) after a debut album in 1997. Byzantine, and, well, quite Chasm-ish death metal is the order of the day, and though not without its charms, the potential impact of A Deadly Call from the Stars is severely hindered by a terribly unbalanced production job and a bit too much shaky playing.
In fact, it’s nearly impossible to see this as anything but a significantly sub-par version of The Chasm’s stellar occult death metal given the noticeable flaws in songwriting, production, and performance. The relentless double bass drumming that peppers album opener “The Evil Always Prevails” is mixed so high that even though the guitars are still audible, it constantly sounds like a helicopter is hovering approximately ten feet above one’s head. Just when I’m about to write off the album entirely, though, a great snaky guitar lead flies in about a minute from the song’s end, and the remainder of the tune sees a flurry of devilish trade-off leads (although the same trick falls relatively flat in the middle section of “Ode to the Ancient Ones,” where the solos never quite pop with the fiery urgency necessary).
This is a frustrating pattern that recurs throughout the album: overbearing production imbalances and weak playing stretch my patience just about to breaking, but then some flashy section of well-placed leads or unexpectedly demonic vocals perks up the ol’ ears, only to dissipate shortly into more of the same frustrations. For example, I’m all for sloppiness in metal when it’s the right kind (what’s up, Urfaust?), but with this kind of Morbid Angel-derived, thrashy but occult- and black metal-tinged death metal, rhythmic precision is crucial. Too often throughout A Deadly Call from the Stars, one element or another is off-time – whether a soloing guitar, vocal line, or drum pattern – and it really ends up distracting from the desired effect. This problem is compounded by the somewhat damnable fact that the band is least interesting when slowing down into a doomy lurch (as on “The Summon of Shub Niggurath Ye Black” or “My Wonder Vision”), but also least likely to suffer from mismatched timing.
So, Shub Niggurath remains a tantalizingly out-of-reach proposition. A Deadly Call from the Stars dredges up some absolutely killer riffs from the elder seas, but the problems detailed above never allow those riffs to truly let fly their fury. Occasionally, as on album highlight “Testimony of Seals,” particularly inspired riffs will collide with feverish atmosphere to result in a thing of surpassing malevolence, but for the vast majority of the album’s overlong runtime (even at just shy of 48 minutes), it simply sounds like the drummer was recorded from a couple of towns over and then mixed twice as high to make up for it. Still, if you just can’t get enough of The Chasm (and really, who can?), this might be a poor enough patch to stave off the shakes and sweats of withdrawal until the real thing steps back up to spell your retribution once again.
[REVIEWER'S NOTE: After this review was published, I was contacted by Daniel Corchado, the man behind The Chasm and Lux Inframundis Records, who informed me that the promotional copy of the album that I used in writing my review was not, in fact, the final mix of the album. After listening to this final mix of the album, I am happy to say that the production is significantly improved. Although this doesn't assuage all of my qualms about the album, integrating the drums into the mix in a far more organic and balanced fashion means that A Deadly Call from the Stars goes over much more smoothly, which is why I have also adjusted the score from a 6 to a 7. The text of the review above has, however, remained untouched.]
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