It’s been five years since Gorephilia has released anything (their 2012 LP Embodiment of Death). Since that time, over 50% of the band, their drummer and a guitar, were swapped out and replaced. This album has been in the works since all the way back in 2012. Originally planned as an EP, the Finns hit a groove (quite literally) and decided to put the hammer down and drop a full-length with their newer sound. Betraying the cover, the lyrical themes don’t touch on space as you might assume. Rather, they look inward for pain and separation. Themes of loss, life and value sets creep through. While maybe not Vastum levels of psychological introspection, Gorephilia are definitely working out a few… electric skeletons being torn in half? Something like that.
Gorephilia are now in the group of death metal bands looking backwards — to the heady days of the early 90s — for inspiration rather than merely attempting to play faster, or louder, or more angry than their contemporaries. Not to say Severed Monolith is boring, rote or derivative. Rather, it provides a hefty foundation of Finnish death upon which the quintet to ply their trade and weave their groovier brand of death metal.
Severed Monolith provides the most mature take on death metal to date from Gorephilia. Their sound has darkened, with the production accompanying that downward dog-like descent. Gone are the more typical jabs of brutal death metal. The drums sound full and rich rather than trigger heavy and electric. The guitars are angular, crossing paths mid-stream only to join forces to bang out chords on the thicker verses. There’s still brutality, but to say Gorephilia is a brutal death metal band would now be a mistake. Their dialing back of the clock has exposed a band with more complete, and well executed, ideas than their more callous and merciless past. It’s more of their In Death demo or their Ascend to Chaos EP than it is their last LP. Not to say Embodiment of Death didn’t have its moment of grooves (“Forget Mortality” and “Saints Without Souls”) and wasn’t perfectly enjoyable, it just doesn’t reach the groovy depth of Severed Monolith.
Take the second track, “Hellfire,” for example. It opens with all the bluster and stance of a death metal outfit absolutely confident and sure of themselves. The guitar screams forth taking a more paced, melodic solo than previously seen from Gorephilia. In fact, the entire song is more moderately paced. Vocals remain low, barked and spat into a microphone with vocal affectations and alterations usually moving in lock step with a pace change from the drums.
Tracks like “Black Horns” tend to showcase the band’s ability to lay down groove tracks. The main riff is a slow, circular banger that, nearing seven-minute runtime, has enough depth and depravity to show off the Gorephilia’s more accessible side. Similarly, “Dark Space” shows off another style Gorephilia are adept at. Taking a more “Morbid Angel-on-a-slow-RPM-speed” approach, the five of them slug it out through guitar whines, descending riffs and vocals that are vexed and aggravated as if attempting to urge the band onwards to faster speeds. (They even have interludes that Trey would approve of.) There are even some alternating American blasts and double bass as if the drummer is trading two’s with himself.
Yes. The answer is most definitely yes, this is a Gorephilia record. Definitely less “brutal” than before. But it’s still the same band. With main songwriter Jukka Aho (Krypts) still at the helm the same ripping Finnish death metal hammer is wielded with aplomb. Gorephilia tear out of the gate and keep the pedal depressed across the length of Severed Monolith providing a pummeling death metal experience complete with whining guitar solos, whammy dives and all the classic stylings of death metal gods of old. A genuinely solid release.