Basilysk – Emergence Review

If the cover art for Emergence makes you think the full length debut from Philadelphia’s Basilysk is actually some long lost album out of the early 90s (check out that overly complicated and ornate logo), then the music will only further that impression. And that’s just peachy. The years of 90 to 95 might be the most fruitful and creative of any period of death metal, and Basilysk possesses a clear understanding of how to take such golden influences and give them just the slightest twist.

Release date: February 22, 2019. Label: self-released.
More than anything, this band loves Morbid Angel, with many of the album’s riffs and drives reminiscent of Trey and company. However, Basilysk not only foregoes any Swamp Thing moments but also gets how something as obvious as drum patterns or riff juxtaposition can make all the difference in terms of identity. “Sinners of Their Own Reality” offers multiple examples for the band’s twisting talents. It trades off between sharp, blasty-tremolo verse passages and some (very Morbid, wickedly great) bottom-tumbly riffs, while also showing how vocalist/guitarist Josh Perrin’s affinity towards the Vincent vocal cadence is but one of his tools. Much of it owes an obvious debt, but none of it is plagiarized (other than maybe the “lava” soloing, anyway).

Basilysk is, however, no one influence band. Also audible are hints of Death, Pestilence, Atheist, and the like, peppering the meaty foundation with slick hooks, super technical moments, and the kind of proggy sophistication those bands were able to achieve without sacrificing venom. The most obvious execution of this sophistication is the 15-minute, multi-movement “Prebirth – Karma – Afterlife.” The track shows a knack for setting the scene (an overture and finale), placing influences within a different context (the aforementioned Morbid Angel drive presented in a way that still holds tension for later passages), and delivering a knockout (a spot where the rhythm guitars and drums get extra punchy as a solo wails into existence). Sure, it meanders a tad in a couple spots, but more often than not it rips, revealing a real desire to stretch out the tools of their heroes into something new and fresh.

The album does have a couple moments that aren’t so much flaws as they are minor puzzles. First is the track “Sad State of the Arts,” which, while starting all blasty, quickly settles into melodic thrash terrain before bringing in some d-beat rhythms. It still rocks, it just sounds a touch naive compared to much of the record. The other mystery is exclusive to the CD version (and promo), where several minutes of mostly silent tracks follow “Prebirth – Karma – Afterlife” before a “hidden” (and pretty cool) instrumental closes things. Listen, we know you guys love Trey Azagthoth, but what he did on Heretic was super stupid and it doesn’t need an homage. Anyhoo, just delete those tracks and forget I wrote this.

For the most part, Basilysk maximizes both their own strengths and those of their predecessors on Emergence, crafting an infinitely listenable and supremely pro record. Sure, it took them 10 years to do their first full length, but what they produced is lush with character (rumble that bass, folks), details, and most importantly heaps of great riffs and solos. That this showed up as an independent release is a crime, considering all the half-cocked, amateurish crap that gets delivered to the promo inbox from experienced record labels. Help to fix that injustice by heading to Bandcamp and bartering some coin for riffs.

Posted by Zach Duvall

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; Obnoxious overuser of baseball metaphors.

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