[Cover artwork by Matt Sidney]
I’ve spent the last couple months taking a deep dive into Cixin Liu’s The Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy (just starting book 3, so no spoilers, please), and I now live in pure fear of an eventual and inevitable hostile alien takeover. This isn’t exactly a new state of mind for me—I‘ve been a diehard science fiction fan for most of my life—but Liu’s vision has delivered a fresh level of authenticity that fits snuggly alongside the Earth’s current precarious situation, so it’s really sticking.
But what of the ultimate test? What happens when some exceptionally misshaped, tentacled horror with a hunger for human flesh and buckminsterfullerene hovers into your space and catches the sounds of Demilich drifting from your speakers? “Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast. To soften rocks, or bend the knotted oak.” Maybe, just maybe, having “The Sixteenth Six-Tooth Son of Fourteen Four-Regional Dimensions (Still Unnamed)” indiscriminately pealing inside your home or car might win you that sudden moment of tranquillity where 300 impossible eyes unexpectedly cool as sophisticated listening organs translate those brutal sounds into a symphony. Suddenly, you become an underling in lieu of lunch. Given this slimmest of slim chances, you best be confident with your wares. You obviously can’t go wrong with the classics, but if we are to believe these beings have been watching and listening to us for decades—and they have—your status under the new regime could very well depend on delivering something, you know, fresh and juicy.
Kaagla’oontœçlaphent in an unreasonably deep and watery rumble after ripping your roof open: “Hidden History of the Human Race? Tcktcktcktck-grickle-click. An interesting choice, bag of mostly water, but your species is inconsequential. Consumption of your slippery blood will now commence.”
Kaagla’oontœçlaphent upon lifting your Honda Element to eye level: “Frozen tcktcktcktck Soul? Admirable riffing, but we have already high-minded your Bolt Thrower. You shall be dehydrated and pressed into currency.”
Kaagla’oontœçlaphent: “ROORF-tcktcktcktcktck. These sounds recall the detonation of the Praxigon X85 star at the hands of our impenetrable antimatter armaments! What hymn is this? Surely it is stolen from another sector of the galaxy. And this artwork is a commendable representation of what is in store for your Earth in the coming days. Walk with me, human.”
Congratulations, Altered Dead just bought you some extra time to negotiate the value of your wondrous little life. Have they dug deep into the core of chaos and discovered a new strain of death metal previously unidentified by all species? Noooooope. Returned to Life pretty much wraps equal parts Severed Survival (ahhh, the beautiful sluggishness) and Realm of Chaos (ohhh, the lovely tank-treadedness) in barbed wire and welds it together with a heaping does of punk / grind, but it’s done with just enough freshness and force to ensure these 30-plus minutes stick to (and through) the ribs. The above “Prosodemic Realms” bolts from the gate with the sort of grinding fury you might expect from an early Righteous Pigs effort, but then that fluttering, world-eating Bolt Thrower allegiance hits around 50-seconds in that, when coupled with the leathery and inhuman barking, serves as an ideal companion to any alien atrocity’s expedition through a freshly exploding city.
Need a little more scoot ’n’ groove to alleviate the dreadful visions of hovering monstrosities hurling human appetizers down unreasonably barbed gullets? The album’s unexpectedly brief and struttin’ title track has you covered. The perfectly balanced production pays equal attention to each player (of which there are only two: Julian on drums / vocals and Mic on guitar, bass and vocals) and leaves just enough nutritive soil on the corners to keep things unrefined yet delightfully vital.
Returned to Life doesn’t really bother much with melody—there are zero solos here, and the closest thing to “pretty” is the loose ode to “Left Hand Path” / Phantasm that kicks off the record and re-enters much later in the middle of “Rotting Outwards.” Even then it’s “pretty” in a frightful sense that likely ends with you getting strapped to a cold iron slab to have your insides poked about by looming extraterrestrial academics. Hey, who needs two lungs anyway. And the record closes out with a full minute’s-worth of scraping, void-haunted noise before launching into a splendid cover of “Into the Crypt of Rays.”
Again, to be clear, Altered Dead ain’t about to win the Nobel Prize for discovering a previously obscured death metal passageway capable of leading us into the Delta Quadrant, but that’s not really all that necessary if what you’re hawking is powerful enough to lure what’s out there to us. Returned to Life is a perfect companion for anyone who loves death metal that offers a unique blend of fast & slow / boggy & grindy, and it’s ideally suited for anyone or anything interested in the destructive powers of this wonderfully cruel off-shoot. Just be mindful of who or what it might lure to your doorstep.
“If I destroy you, what business is it of yours?” ~ The Dark Forest