With a musical style that has been around as long as death metal, the most common case is that a band’s influences are worn on their sleeves like so many vest patches, with musicians incapable or even fearful of moving the slightest bit away from their heroes. Turkey’s Engulfed is different, but only to a point. They are that rare kind of death metal band that plays music that itself is not rare, but delivered with enough skill to please both the old-school-obsessed and those that have long grown tired of the innumerable clones.
The secret to their success is far from secret, but still elusive to far too many bands: great songs, band chemistry, and a beastly production. That’s it. On paper, Engulfed offers nothing new as far as individual ingredients, but they so completely hit those important points that debut Engulfed In Obscurity becomes one of the better unabashedly old school death metal records in recent memory.
The root of Engulfed’s sound is the early 90s Swedeath of albums like Clandestine and Dark Recollections, with a touch of Incantation thump added for grimy appeal. The deep, balanced production, combined with guitarist Mustafa’s penchant for writing plenty of cyclical lead tremolo lines, creates a natural atmosphere that sacrifices none of the heft. The bellowing death growls from vocalist/bassist Serkan enhance the grit, demonic fervor, and overall aura simultaneously, while betraying just enough of an attitude to make this stuff mean.
All of it combines to give the album a slight sense of dynamics, at least in the pure death metal sense of the term. There are plenty of moments of furious blasting and lurching doom/death, but the changes in tempo and wailing solos are only a small part of what make this album feel alive. Rather, it is Engulfed’s fearlessness to find a killer idea and just run with it that hammers down their true beastliness.
Songs such as the title track and “Inseminated with Demon Seed” exemplify this talent. Both tracks feature plenty of the riff, tempo, and rhythm variations heard throughout the album, but towards their latter minutes really settle into a… not a groove, definitely not a groove, but a… pattern of attack? Sure. Engulfed finds a set of riffs so relentless that they become trapped, and in doing so also trap the listener. It is during these moments when drummer Aberrant shows off his substantial talents. Furious double-kick-drum patterns, blast-ridden shuffles, liberal use of the ride cymbal (which is oh-so-tastily produced), and constant thumps are all part of a delightfully relentless performance. All three members of Engulfed are responsible for the captivating vigor of these passages (some extra maniacal screams ought to induce an evil grin), but Aberrant is without a doubt the most active of the trio.
Write good songs. Play them a lot with other great musicians. Produce them the right way. It isn’t that complicated. There’s a real chance that a large amount of the success of Engulfed In Obscurity in these departments is the result of this band spending years together as a unit before recording a full album. They got together in 2010, but only managed an EP up to this point. Countless other bands might take that as a lesson to allow themselves some good seasoning before putting riff to tape. It may be just their first full length album, but Engulfed sounds experienced beyond their years, ravenously hungry, and absolutely locked in.
Highly recommended to those with preferences all along the death spectrum.
Released 6/30/2017 on Regain Records.