It feels more than a little ridiculous to be reviewing this as a ‘new release’, given that Hatred For Mankind, Dragged Into Sunlight’s debut full-length, was released by Mordgrimm in the UK all the damn way back in September 2009. Some fifteen-odd months later and this bilious monster of an album is finally seeing a proper Stateside release through Prosthetic. Dragged Into Sunlight’s sound is an overflowing cauldron of the nastiest bits of death, black and sludge metals, alluding to an aesthetic kinship with Coffinworm, Black Sun, or maybe even Gnaw Their Tongues. (Hell, Arkhon Infaustus fans might hop on, too.) Still, although this debut is sonically quite interesting, it ends up coming off somewhat less successfully than some of their similar-minded counterparts.
Dragged Into Sunlight’s sound has generally been referred to as some bastard breed of blackened sludge, but there’s at least as much bleak death metal – and a velocity occasionally approaching classic British grindcore – in it as there is blackness. The guitar tone throughout the album is appropriately crushing, almost the Stockholm death metal buzzsaw, or even the streamrolling drive of prime Bolt Thrower. The drums benefit from a relatively elastic-sounding production (except, of course, for the persistently annoying shimmer of over-splashy cymbals – a pet peeve of this particular reviewer, and the reason he couldn’t sit through the first Fukpig album without stuffing his ears with socks).
The production in general could do a better job of keeping track of everything that’s going on, but the murkiness is likely a stylistic choice rather than a technical limitation. Still, it does feel like it prevents some of the more intense moments from striking as fiercely as they might otherwise. The vocals are expelled in a mostly black metal style, which occasionally approximates the venomous tone of Anaal Nathrakh, without ever quite matching the, er, vitriol of Dave Hunt’s harrowing exhortations. More often than not, the ‘sludge’ tag is somewhat misleading, as the band shuffles its wares along rather quickly, with judicious dollops of feedback used to punctuate the generally straight-ahead death-sludge freight train. All aboard, as it were.
One of the biggest impediments to the actual songs on this album is the inclusion of far too many bloated serial-killer-or-other-generally-unpleasant-type samples. This tendency is most evident on album opener “Boiled Angel, Buried With Leeches,” which thankfully redeems itself slightly with its raging, almost thrash metal conclusion. Again, though, the possible impact of the extended riffing hammerfest that closes the song out is blunted by the rounded-off edges of the album’s sound when all the band members careen along in rhythmic unison. “Volcanic Birth” is probably the best song on here; halfway through it busts apart into a classic slowdown bridge, which leads the listener patiently, expectantly into an all-out blasting rhythm – a trick straight out of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas-era Mayhem, if you listen for it. Another spot of brilliance is the gradual sludge ritardando about two-thirds of the way through “I, Aurora,” which then straightens itself out again for a clenched-fist groove. This track flirts with an almost major-key melody towards the end, all cut under with some eerie, whining synth stings. Oddly enough, the bells and overdriven drones of dark ambient closer “Totem Of Skulls” (awesome title) are almost more sonically-arresting than the rabid clattering of the rest of the album.
Despite the level of humid, sweat-drenched nastiness on display, the album leaves me somewhat cold, or at least conflicted. Hatred For Mankind has great moments aplenty, but falls short of also having great songs. While I generally don’t care about some “proper” or archetypal style of songwriting, Dragged Into Sunlight doesn’t spit forth quite enough of the taut, memorable riffs that usually help me overlook lax songwriting. That said, the great moments on here are really great, and if you’re a fan of this type of genre-fucking meanness, you’ll certainly find much to admire. As for me, I might just throw “Totem Of Skulls” on repeat for a while and then dream about what gleaming filth this still-promising band might vomit up next. That, or go listen to Coffinworm.