Originally written by Doug Moore.
Deeds of Flesh are nothing if not consistent. After a third consecutive two-year wait, the long-running Californian deathsters have produced another collection of technical blasting metal, and this year’s title Crown of Souls sounds very…well, very characteristic of their own ironically-titled Unique Leader label. This is not a band that is given to musical experimentation, and those seeking a more adventurous guttural romp in the vein of labelmates Psycroptic will find very little to latch on to here. However, those amongst you who worship in the house that Suffocation built will love this disc for what it is: an unoriginal but vicious forty-minute chunk of high-quality brutal death metal.
Crown of Souls is, amongst other things, an extremely unforgiving album. There is virtually no room to breathe between the mincing opening blast of “Crown of Souls” and the abrupt conclusion of “Caught Devouring,” and inexperienced listeners will likely find that the album blows by in an incomprehensible whirl of blastbeats and growls. Those who devote numerous listens to the material here, however, will be rewarded with a menagerie of savage chromatic riffs and blistering tremolo runs. Technically, the band is unsurprisingly proficient. Guitarist/vocalist Erik Lindmark generates a seething array of speed-picked, serpentine guitar lines and mixes them fluidly with stuttering palm-muting, all while generating a serviceable if unimpressive death metal growl. Drummer Mike Hamilton is a student of the bass’n’blast school of death metal percussion; he switches off between blasts and unstable machine-gun grooves quickly and often. Unfortunately, the band’s labrynthine songwriting seems to get away from it in places; there are numerous convoluted stop-start blasting segments in places where a simple four/four groove would have been more effective. The band is actually at their most powerful when they settle down structurally and let a bit of insidious melody creep into the buzzing speedpicking, as on “The Resurrected” and “Incontestably Evil.” The result reminds of a more confrontational variation on the newest Origin record: unrelentingly violent, but just intelligent enough to provide some dark focus to their bombast.
Like many brutal death albums, Crown of Souls’s deliberately one-dimensional nature saddles it with a tendency to run together, and even fans of this style will have trouble identifying one riff from the next. The issue is not helped by the production job; while the guitars and higher drum registers are sufficiently clear and audible, there is not nearly enough bass in the mix, reducing Hamilton’s constant kick-drum flailing to irritating clicks and rendering many of the band’s would-be-crushing grooves (like the squealing chugga section from “This Macabre Fetish”) disappointingly impotent. One will also note that bassist Jacoby Kingston has not even been mentioned thus far. This is because I honestly have no idea whether he even played at all on this album other than the break in “Medical Murder.” The man could have been soloing wildly or playing “Rawhide” over and over, but whatever his contribution was is rendered entirely null and void by the production. I understand that hopelessly burying the bass guitar is a death metal convention, but that doesn’t make it any less of a shame.
Crown of Souls is hardly a perfect record, but there is certainly a huge following for this type of metal, and any fans of Deeds of Flesh’s back catalogue or Unique Leader’s other bands will be very satisfied by this most recent effort. Virtually anyone with a taste for extremity and intensity in their metal will likely find something they like here, but the album’s prohibitive length, impenetrability and production will undoubtedly ward off others.