Whenever I hear the term ‘supergroup’ I become worried. Not because these sorts of groups do not create great music, they can and often do, but they seem to lack the cutting edge that a lot of bands develop by having to do the hard yards together. You know, the sort of, ‘do or die’ feeling you can get from the first and second releases or death metal bands. But The Lurking Fear may well have bucked this trend. Featuring members of At the Gates, Disfear, The Haunted, Skitsystem and God Macabre, The Lurking Fear has set out to create honest and filthy death metal music and in most regards, they’ve nailed the brief.
Their debut album Out of the Voiceless Grave, features the amazingly tight drum performance that we have come to expect by Adrian Erlandsson (At The Gates / The Haunted). The guitars (Jonas Stålhammar and Fredrik Wallenberg) develop a sense of urgency and intensity that is common in their other bands. The selective use of octave chords and diminished scales serve to develop the edge that The Lurking Fear will become known for. But it is the iconic voice of Tomas Lindberg, one of the grandfathers of Scandinavian melodic death metal, that adds a much needed element of honest brutality to the mix. There is a raw sense of realness to this album that is further emphasised with the choice of additional instruments; pianos, bells, strings etc. to further develop the horror aspect of their sound.
The title track offers an unsettling beginning to the album, and it isn’t the instrument they have chosen, it’s the back and forth of the notes that end in a hollow gurgle, signifying a sort of empty bleak view of what is to come. ‘Lurking’ is the operative word here, as the track gives the disturbing sense of something left behind or unknown.
Vortex Spawn then smashes the listener with a wall a pure filthy death metal. The track leads into a slow melodic section that screams gruesome horror. It is a very satisfying song and a great start to the album, showcasing not only the two extremes of their music, but the strongest parts of death metal itself.
The onslaught continues with The Starving Gods of Old, with quick drum and guitar work and Tomas’ iconic rhythms reminiscent of At The Gates. It is at this point that you can begin to see what a force this band would be live. Such energy and power is hard to ignore. The mid-section to this song demonstrates a little diversity and helps to build the track into an almost traditional thrash inspired guitar solo. The nods to bands such as Slayer throughout the album are certainly not lost.
The Infernal Dread features some classical death metal sounds and is probably my favorite track of the album. The melody cements them in the melodic death metal scene, but still maintains the sickening feeling of the rest of the album, especially in the middle section of the track.
With Death Engraved In Their Bones and Upon Black Winds continue the quick and precise death sound that will become a quintessential essence of the band. The occasional use of a half-time snare and higher guitar notes help to break up the sound, showing that the band have more to offer then just straight fast death. They have thought about these songs as a band and the quality is shining through. The end section of Upon Black Winds deserves a mention though. The cascading notes of a repulsive piano adds to the overall unsettling feeling of the album. One thing this band does well is keep the melody shocking rather than melancholic as featured by other Scandinavian melodic death metal bands.
Teeth Of The Dark Plains demonstrates more of a melodic approach than the onslaught of the other tracks, but the intensity still continues with Tomas screaming over the howling of guitars and strings to close the song. The beginning section of The Cold Jaws Of Death could have easily been recorded in the 80s. The bass drum build ups and the fast guitars would hit a chord of familiarity in older listeners. The change in this song however, features probably the most At The Gates influenced part of the album, with a slower paced melodic section that features an unnerving voiceover.
Tongued With Foul Flames is the only track to not feature a slower melody. It is a constant barrage of fresh death to assault the senses. Melody is reintroduced in Winged Death, with an almost symphonic section that still remains in the core of the album’s feel.
The introduction to Tentacles Of Blackened Horror is like an updated version of Metallica’s Eye of The Beholder in its chuggy feel and tom-centric beat. This is not meant in a plagiaristic way, but it is a technique we don’t see often in death metal and it is an interesting choice. The final track Beneath Menacing Sands is far slower than the rest of the album. It’s the only track to not feature a fast section and it ends with a slow sludge that leaves a fresh sickening feeling in the listener.
My biggest criticism of Out Of The Voiceless Grave is that the majority of songs are formulaic – fast section, followed by sickening melody, following by a fast section. However, the band does shake the feeling of the album up enough that the avid listener will begin to appreciate the nous of each track. While the album is quite varied in its use of additional instruments, in a lot of ways, it is still a very safe first release. One would expect some more diversity in future offerings. Lastly, I have to mention the album cover. I understand where they are coming from – a swirling vortex signifying imminent death and destruction – and no disrespect to artist Stefan Thanneur, but with such eye catching covers out there, I’d have to ask if this was the best choice. Perhaps it was the last message of the band to help advertise that this is an unforgiving, uncompromising, filthy death metal group, striving to create honest and horrific music, and they’re not going to apologise for it.