Death metal has expanded voraciously in the past couple of years, extending brutal tendrils into more thoughtful territory, with bands incorporating elements of prog, industrial and even shoegaze into their sounds.
Well, yeah, that’s all well and good. But where’s the meat? Where’s the carnage? Have we forgotten the lumbering ferocity with which death metal approached us in the late 80s and early 90s? Are we too precocious about our tone now to just let rip with nasty, barely-audible buzzsaw riffage?
According to Deathmarch, who coincidentally pay homage to this very era in the album title, the latter answer is a resounding ‘No’. Bringing back Grave from the Grave, bathing in Blood like certain fellow contemporaries and paying little heed to polished, flourishing melodies, Dismember instead brings it back to us for 21 minutes of guttural, stomp-heavy old-school death metal worship.
Gastorture kicks the door down immediately, and the march of the footsoldiers begins with a chugging riff that would be home on a Hail of Bullets or Bolt Thrower album. The war aesthetic is profoundly obvious, obscenely so in their music.
The guttural, low belching of Dirk Willems, from the outset, brings to mind both Malevolent Creation and classic Morbid Angel, reinforced later on with classic old-school shrieks to make either band proud. The perennial buzzsaw tone of Quint Meersbeek cuts through like a rusty knife, thundering drum and bass of Olle Oelle and Walter Van Kalsbeel puncturing through the din, leading to a massive breakdown riff around the 3 minute mark that I absolutely could not sit still to. I could guarantee these guys would have a live show with more windmills than their homeland countryside.
Warmachine trundles along at a similar pace, the low-to-mid-tempo stomping signaling that Deathmarch know how to employ their namesake. Lyrics bring the expected thematic horror of war and violence, culminating in the shriek of ‘Run for your life!’, before ringing out into military-style drumming. The salvo continues onwards with a rolling outro and breakdown marred with screams, marching boots and battlefield ambience.
Then, just as you had these guys pegged as comfortably reserved, Autopsy with a Chainsaw brings the fury. The track begins with a pulsating heartbeat, swinging doors, screams and a chainsaw. Hang on, did Aborted just call into the studio? Blastbeats trill furiously throughout as Oelle goes from artillery strike to heavy machine gun fire, the piercing shrieks of Willems flaying about that consistently filthy, distortion-drenched saw-and-oomph guitar and bass romp. Before you know it, it’s over. The autopsy is complete in a display of bloodied filth with a dirt-eating grin.
Now, with a track like Bayonet Frenzy, you’d be forgiven for thinking we were in for another lashing of high-speed savagery. Nope, now it’s time – to rock. In classic Entombed fashion, the vocals entice a brief ‘Come on!’ before launching into a death’n’roll groove so thick you’d need orbital bombardment to penetrate it. Twisting into a punchy classic thrash style section, guttural lows give way to piercing shrieks once more, before giving back in to a breakdown, mini drum solo and a mid-to-late section that is just pure fun. Certainly not reinventing anything here, but paying homage well to the old gods with both snarl and groove.
Of course, what album by a band called Deathmarch who sing about war would be complete without a self-referential track? Death Marches On snaps into place with chokes and rolls from the kit, mixing d-beat chugging with sliding tempo prancing. This one has agility on all fronts, the vocals interplaying between ranges, bass and guitars flitting back and forth. And of course, the million dollar moment ‘Death – Marches –ON!’ is where the tremolo kicks in and we are savaged one last time before being left bereft of hope in the post-apocalyptic wasteland to the same ringing feedback which shellshocked us into the nightmare 21 minutes ago.
If you’re looking for death metal to run technical rings around Saturn, look elsewhere. If you’re up for bathing in blood, dismembering and flying under a hail of bullets to the grave, make sure you blast this sucker on full bore. Five conflict-laden old-school beatdowns to leave you entombed with a whetted appetite for blood.