Hello and welcome to yet another installation of Death Metal Dossier. Lately, we’ve actually had some notions to change the name and theme of this beautiful piece but we (Manny & Ryan) have been getting nothing but pushback from management. Damn the man, right? Despite the subjugation, we will continue to fight through the bullshit to bring you the very best in the death metal underground.
I’m sure you are all chomping at the bit (because our audience is largely made up of horses) to hear about me and Ryan. Well, I can report that we are doing very well. Quarantine has been about as hard on us as it has been on everyone. The beginning honeymoon period where there is nothing but love and sex slowly gives way to the routine of life, sweatpants and tube socks, and Ryan and I have not been immune when it comes to this. But it’s also given us a chance to look at our relationship and figure out what it means. When you’re in this for the long haul, and we most certainly are, you begin to overlook the base pleasures of life and find joy, security and safety in the positive qualities that someone brings to a friendship. Ryan certainly abounds with positive qualities, and I know that it’s just me speaking here, but I can attest that I will be with him until the sun sets on my life—my shrouded body hurled into the woods for the wolves to devour.
This week we have a very special addition for you! DAN OBSTKRIEG is joining us. Dan is a shy boy from the Midwest who rarely opens up and shares with people. Without selecting a medical diagnosis for him, let’s just say he’s “reserved.” I think you catch my drift here. Dan is also a handsome fellow who eats a lot of big salads. He’s become something of an expert combining slow-cooked succulent dishes with salads and adding just the right amount of crunch. Despite the Fangorn Forest-size plates of salad, Dan is still losing weight during quarantine. We can probably attribute this to his general “nervousness.” Are you getting the picture? I think you know him pretty well at this point.
So, with our special guest announced, introduced and properly embarrassed we can move forward to what counts: DEATH METAL.
Tzompantli – Tlamanalli (Independent AF): Death metal can get as bad and fancy as it wants to be, and I don’t mind. The implicit bargain, though, is that for every progressive, highfalutin flight of chin-stroking out there, you’d better be able to find at least another three miscreants mucking around in the absolute gutter, turning over every last diseased leaf in search of exactly what it means to be heavy. Tzompantli’s debut EP Tlamanalli was self-released back in October of 2019, but the fine fiends at Transylvanian Tapes snapped it up for a cassette release this April. Tzompantli is a solo project of the deliciously named Bigg O))) (aka Brian Ortiz, also to be found playing guitar as one of the founders and current members of Southern Lord heavyweights Xibalba), and on Tlamanalli, Ortiz kicks over great stone monuments in pursuit of cripplingly heavy death / doom informed by the history of the Mexica people of the pre-Columbian Americas.
Lest you think this subject matter results in some of the selfsame chin-stroking, just take a waltz over to the ‘play’ button here and have your skull say hello to a brand-new contact fracture. The EP hits the ground with a harmonized lead, but once those merciless programmed drums pound into life, the name of the game is mostly find a riff, ask whether it’s heavy enough, realize that it is, then double it with a beautifully disgusting bass tone and kick every ounce of shit possible out of it before switching it up with, surprise!, another greasy riff that probably thinks Slowly We Rot is a little too intellectual. Maybe you dweebs who fiddle nervously with your shirtsleeves while hemming and hawing about production or distortion or impedance or whatever will point to the smashed edges of the tone when the bass hits sound like they’re about to be dissolved by gravital shearing forces as a bad thing, but I’m out here letting my head wobble in place like a goddamn tuning fork. Join me!
So yes, death metal in its purest celebration of heaviness lives here. The 3:14 mark of the opening track hits a perfectly Disembowelment-styled twang that opens up some nice clean funeral-y reverb, but then the 3:30 mark of the title track nails a perfectly grimy, snaking Incantation murk riff. This is crude but impassioned punishment, meted out with more smarts than you would expect across these 20 minutes. If you’ve ever asked yourself, “What if the Ruins of Beverast’s Exuvia was recorded by a sentient burial mound raised only on Seven Churches and Winter’s Into Darkness?” then friend, this assuredly sounds very little like that, but I like the cut of your jib, sailor. [DANHAMMER OBSTKRIEG]
Ripped to Shreds – 亂 Luan (Pulverised Records): Loosely based on ancient Chinese war-themed folktales, you say!? Well, there’s a subject I certainly know absolutely nothing about. Something I do know a little bit about, though, is this here all-star cast of characters composing the lineup of Ripped to Shreds: Justin Bean (Trenchrot, Daeva, etc), Tom Warrior (Obscure Transmissions, Death Fortress, Siege Column, etc), Takafumi Matsubara (Gridlink, Retortion Terror, etc), Phil Tougas (Chthe‘ilist, Funebrarum, etc) and Horrendous axeman Damian Herring as a guest. Band members and guest specialists so good that naming them and some of their accomplishments (musical and not otherwise) took up half this blurb! And we didn’t even get to Greg Wilkinson’s sublime mixing and Damian Herring’s artful mixing, or the simply monumental artwork by artist Guan Yang.
Now, here is the spot where I tell you that this is some fucking album. Conceptual or not, this LP simply rips. Ripped to Shreds skated under the radar with their debut full-length in 2018, and then with their inexplicably underappreciated amazing EP in 2019. Can 2020 be the year that the masses finally pull their heads out of their collective asses and finally just get back to the basic tenets of death metal? A good start would be spinning Luan.
An unrelenting assault of Asphyx blended with Bolt Thrower and mashed with early Exhumed provides a thirty-six minute bludgeoning tough enough to make you forget that time your poppa whooped your behind because you got an 86 on that math test you promised to ace. A track like “Eight Immortals Feast” provide tubular, condensed old-school death metal with all the comfort of sitting in a La-Z-Boy stuffed with flesh eating bacteria and giant piranhas that can somehow breathe air. The vocals attack with an alternating throat-curdling preciseness and vomitorious guttural spew. The drums hurl forth a frenzy of activity matched lock-step by the rhythm section before a lurching outro replaces your heart inside your chest cavity.
This album flat out SMASHES. [MANNY-O-LITO]
Altar Of Gore – Obscure & Obscene Gods (Independent AF): While members of Altar of Gore may lend a hand on the aforementioned Ripped To Shreds release, Obscure & Obscene Gods is their baby on this edition of Death Metal Dossier. The New Jersey mad dogs behind the mighty Death Fortress and visceral Siege Column again blur the lines between sweaty, stankin’ death metal and the more violent rituals of black metal. I don’t know what they’re putting in the bagels up there (aside from Taylor Ham), but something’s lit a fire that won’t go out under Warrior and Aversario.
While all of their projects have a certain element of violence, Altar Of Gore taps into the most primal element yet. Obscure & Obscene Gods is relentless, straightforward brutality. Sure, plenty of bands right now are jumping on the caveman deathwagon, but where many bands stop with just showing off a bit of muscle, Altar Of Gore actually do something with it, leaving the showboys crying home to mama beneath the tricolored haze of their Pit Vipers. The sheer aggressive violent spirit of Blasphemy pumps pure adrenaline into the neanderthal biceps—the feedbacking wail of the lead guitar mainlining gargantuan levels of testosterone at the onset of “Exalted Exsanguination.” The unrelenting blasts of the drums further enrage the already angered beast being summoned, giving way only to the occasional breakdown and further assisted with further adrenal injections of divebomb wails.
There is a certain hypnotic quality to the brutality—a catharsis through anger. “Altar Of Gore” not only devours the heart of its prey with it’s meaty, sweaty density, it gnaws on the adrenal gland like an after-dinner mint with its flurry of noisy, high-register soloing that rips through the flesh its razor sharp tone. And it is also cranked up in the mix with the purposeful intent of FUCKING YOU UP.
The album continues to chuck the listener back up before sucking them in again—a perpetual forty-minute trip through a meat grinder with mechanical precision and a malicious onslaught of torment that for some will be an endurance test, for others a cathartic experience in auditory violence. If the intro to “Acolyte Of The Foul Ones” doesn’t make you want to toss a semi across a parking lot in the name of Satan, this album probably isn’t for you.
While the duo’s other projects certainly all have their own place, Altar Of Gore seems a fairly defined corner of their expanding sandbox of extreme metal where they can just let loose and play some visceral black metal of death. It’s intentionally dumbed down musically (in the best way), yet Altar Of Gore further proves the Warrior/Aversario knack for capturing what makes the influence for their projects so great; in this case harnessing the sheer brutality of Blasphemy into a black / death war machine that stands as a notable release of the year in its own right. [RYAN TYSINGER]
It has been our distinct pleasure to bring you this very, very special edition, Dandition if you will, of Death Metal Dossier. May all your journeys be filled with death and may all your dossiers be metal and may all your metal be dossiers. Whatever. Just get metal as much as possible and be awesome.