Open wide. Inhale the stench of death. The rotting body that lies inside the casket. Perhaps you dug it up, freshly decomposed, only to whiff the putrid scent of decay and corrosion. Maybe it’s a fresh corpse lying in the satin-lined casket. Maybe it smells almost sweet and sugary as the body begins to ooze its vitals through pores and orifices. Or, maybe, it’s a brand new casket sans-body. Maybe it’s a fine mahogany lined with ruffled silk and adorned with peppermint accents. Maybe it’s the fresh wood and glue scent that you have been craving. Whichever one suits your fancy, it’s of crucial importance that you huff the casket.
Old school, burning, straightforward death metal has certainly been making a strong comeback as of late. And, not surprisingly, many bands excelling in the art form use caskets or coffins in their name (see Coffin Lust’s 2016 release Manifestation of Inner Darkness). Casket Huffer are cut from that mold of early-90s-worshipping, American death metal quartets, but they modernize that formulaic take by wedging in just enough sludge and blackened influences across Gospels of Scum. Add in a sprinkling of aggressive, near-punk style tempos, and these Wyoming cowboys have a record that could rope a steer and tie that sucker up with a hooey!
Take, for example, the title track. “Gospels of Scum” begins with a straight punk rhythm that falls into a halting, jerky rhythm more akin to moderately paced powerviolence or crusty grind than death metal. The effect is to break up the monotony of old school death metal worship. And it’s effective. The title track shows dissonance, aggressiveness and inventiveness that is characteristic of Casket Huffer’s compositional style. They are not merely confined to the four-walled compound that is foundational death metal.
Elsewhere, tracks like “Cursed” show a more straightforward, blazing style of pacing. The track simply rips out of the gate hurtling forward like an unroped bull aggressively pursuing a rodeo clown he’s got in his sights. Somebody better rope that bull! This is another great example of the prototypical Casket Huffer sound. It’s as aggressive as anything, driving and, for the most part, straightforward. Alternatively, “Voices” employs a wide open intro. Guitars slowly pump out near-chromatic chord progressions while the drums focus on making cymbal crashes like a massive gate opening to release the weanling. For all its wide open beginnings, “Voices” still rips. The track will end on a similarly open format, this time with double bass providing a moshing undercurrent while guitars whine over the top like a hog tied up with a piggin string.
Probably the most “outside the box,” even for Casket Huffer, track is “I Hate This Fucking World” (which, I mean, buck up boys!). The track contains a multitude of dissonant harmonies over a near blast beat. Here, the vocals take on a guttural quality supporting the six-string melodies. Perhaps the moment on the album where Casket Huffer displays their most cohesive playing “unit.” There’s also the a solo of sorts, which is mostly just a melodic, almost epic, lead line before the track spins into the typical chaotic rhythms and dissonance that they like to create. Call this crusty death metal, like an open wound poorly stitched up by the mortician, decaying at a rapid pace inside the cheap, pinewood box in which the occupant was shoved.
Originally self-released in late 2016, Gospels of Scum is finally seeing proper release via Hibernation Release Records. While the album itself doesn’t give off the scent of a casket, the listener will easily be able to pick up on the grotesque forwardness of their corpse scent. To describe this album in terms of a casket would probably mean that it’s akin to a recycled casket, mostly cleaned of its former scent, yet the formaldehyde stench of former occupancy is notable underneath the lavender spray used to cover it up. That is to say that while Casket Huffer may not be opening up new gateways in death metal, they are combining influences, hybrid genres and some absolutely kickass grooves to make a wholly enjoyable experience across Gospels of Scum.