Spiritual Bloodshed is the second full-length album from Portland, Oregon death metal act Triumvir Foul. The band’s style is old-school, barbaric, brutal and raw. Triumvir Foul cleaves to a certain cacophonous aesthetic somewhat similar to, if not as extreme as, Tetianblood’s assault on conventional musical sensibilities, leading to some production choices that will likely make Spiritual Bloodshed a “love it or hate it affair.”
Some aspects of Triumvir Foul’s sound reach back to the eighties, recalling the brutish simplicity and ragged sound of foundational death metal bands like Hellhammer and Master. Other aspects of the group’s sound don’t reach quite so far back. The band occasionally shows flashes of greater technical ability than was generally common of death metal’s progenitors. The riffing and arrangements are a bit more complex, and the drumming features abundant blast beats and tighter, more intense double bass, that speaks to a slightly newer-school brutality.
The greatest strength of Spiritual Bloodshed is the sheer exuberance of the band’s performance: Triumvir Foul sounds like it is having a Hell of a good time making this unholy racket. The album is still serious-as-a-heart-attack death metal that sounds evil as fuck, but one gets the impression that the band very much enjoys sounding evil as fuck and pursues it with great vigor. In many ways this approach hearkens back again to the eighties when death metal wasn’t quite so stiff, the genre’s boundaries weren’t so firmly established, and bands were just going for it. Triumvir Foul is going for it like a pack of rabid dogs throughout most of Spiritual Bloodshed.
Although Triumvir Foul spends most of the record dealing out savage battery, the group mixes things up enough to keep monotony at bay. “Tyrannical Flesh”, for instance, blasts away for its first minute and a quarter, but the balance of the track is rounded out nicely with a serpentine groove in the mid-section and some lurching doom in the outro. With the title track, the band manages to focus its usual maelstrom of noise into something resembling a signature riff possessed of both groove and melody. Finally, the closing tune, “Vrasubatlatian Rites” offers up some more doom and slides a little black metal tremolo riffing into the mix.
There’s a fine line between a raw sound and a shitty sound, and it’s a matter of taste as to which side of that line Spiritual Bloodshed falls on. Personally, while I find Triumvir Foul’s filthy, unhinged take on death metal refreshing, I’m inclined to choose the latter. My principal gripe is that the guitars are critically lacking in bite. The band’s lo-fi approach has taken all the edge off the axes, making them suitable only for bludgeoning. Bludgeoning is still brutal, but a sharp edge draws more blood. Secondarily, all the instruments seem to be competing for the same narrow space in the frequency spectrum, rendering much of what’s happening indistinct, particularly during fast sections, which, incidentally, make up at least three quarters of the album.
Spiritual Bloodshed is an old-school death metal record that manages to sound fresh, ironically, by going really old-school for its sonic inspiration. But, much like Hellhammer, who were reviled by more than they were loved, Triumvir Foul’s sound is going to be divisive; where some will hear the true spirit of death metal, others will just hear noise.