To get the inevitable out of the way: yes, Coffin Texts is a death metal band with a lyrical and thematic focus on ancient Egypt, so unless you’ve been living under some remarkably insulated rock for the past decade and change, your mind will immediately go, “Nile!” Still, the fact that Coffin Texts, despite just now releasing its second album, formed all the way back in 1994 (just a year later than our favorite Ithyphallic South Carolinians) should go a long way toward allaying the creeping fear that this is some kind of trend-hopping sadfest. Instead, The Tomb of Infinite Ritual is an absolutely unrelenting procession of riff after glorious, shit-kicking riff; barbaric death metal in its purest, utterly trendless form.
Coffin Texts forgoes any of the ambient trappings and additional instrumentation of Nile, instead erecting massive riff-pyramids in the heat-bent image of Morbid Angel circa Altars of Madness, with a bit of the gruesome restraint Krisiun showed on last year’s The Great Execution. The deliberate care of the riffing crafted by this Californian three-piece gives these songs a more ritualistic feel than a dozen ouds or consonant-choked Egyptian chants ever could anyway. Richard Gonzalez’s guitars carve their jagged Sanskrit with a nimbleness that belies their heavy sprawl, and the resonant thud of Emilio Marquez’s hydra-limbed drumming works in deft lockstep with the sandpaper incantations of vocalist and bassist Robert Cardenas.
Following a brief spoken introduction, the band conjures a dry, flailing fury against a shimmering ochre horizon on ripping opener “To Manifest,” and from that point through the single bell tolling that marks the album’s end, your body is no longer your own; headbanging isn’t just mandatory, it’s DNA-encoded. “Throne of Genocide” is particularly unforgiving in its gritted-teeth hammering, and just listen to that goddamn bass opening of “Final Transformation.” Even the longest track here, “Divination,” never once feels stale, such is the monomaniacal drive of its aggressive lashing. The understated soloing that carries it through its earth-trembling final section is like hungry flame licking the heels of Anubis. The dexterous cymbal abuse of closer “Deities of the Prime Evil Chaos,” and the choir of tormented voices whipped to a manic frenzy by its eerie concluding solo puts a tidy cap on this hugely satisfying album.
Sure, nothing on The Tomb of Infinite Ritual is as immediately and immensely catchy as, say, “Chapel of Ghouls,” but in the end, that might have less to do with the quality of Coffin Texts and more with the fact that twenty years of intervening death metal history makes for one hell of a mountain to climb. Ultimately, either you want to listen to a death metal album completely littered with fantastic riffs, or you don’t. There’s not a whole lot that these dumbass words can do to change your inclination toward riffs. Coffin Texts has mastered a brutish finesse, so whether you’re riff-starved, riff-obsessed, or merely riff-curious, you’d be well served taking a sojourn in this tomb where the deathless ancients wait; where they wake.