Castrator – Defiled In Oblivion Review

[Cover artwork by the inimitable Jon Zig]

Release date: July 22, 2022 Label: Dark Descent.
I’ll be honest and quickly admit the following right from the jump: For reasons having zero to do with the actual quality of the release, I have spent the better part of the last two weeks wavering on how to properly attack the write-up for Defiled in Oblivion. On the surface, the record is about as straightforward and old-school US death metal as anyone could possibly hope for, which, for those bent on exploration and progression, likely represents its most significant disadvantage. It’s actually a pretty fresh take on the old-school, though, both in terms of style and context, and it’s done with a level of skill that makes the record a shoo-in for anyone interested in the sort of death metal that clawed from the grave in Florida circa 1990. Accordingly, Defiled in Oblivion’s greatest strength lies in the manner in which it supplies an absolute riff buffet (riffet?) that focuses on the sort of maliciousness that recalls early works from Cannibal Corpse, Malevolent Creation and the like, but it also manages to sprinkle in bits of starchy Obituary for good measure. This is good news, as umpteen other OSDM bands from the last few years continue to be largely obsessed with the more blunt or grinding side of classic death metal, and while it might seem preposterous to gripe about exorbitant obsessions with Martin van Drunen or the dulcet harmonies of Bolt Thrower’s Gavin Ward & Barry Thompson, we all know Rover enjoys the entire variety of organs and offal in the ol’ supper dish.

Where things get notably interesting, and what sets this band and album apart from most every other death metal record you’ll come across in 2022 is… Well, most every other angle presented here. Castrator is a death metal band comprised of four women—something that’s thankfully becoming less rare as time and metal continues to inch along (reverent hails to legends such as Derkéta and Mythic for blazing trails in the early ‘90s)—and they bring a unique and vital perspective to death metal that includes lyrics that underscore the struggles women have faced and continue to face as a result of simply being women living on this shared planet of ours. As a result, the subject matter behind Defiled in Oblivion explores a myriad of emotions spanning vulnerability to frustration to incendiary strength, and it does so by spotlighting crucial themes such as the Catholic church’s horrific persecution of women amidst the Salem witch trials, the scores of unsolved Jane Doe murder cases that continue to accumulate as time marches forward, and even the incredibly powerful stance against oppression that Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai showcased as an education activist back in 2013. Which, as it happens, is a subject that makes for a particularly potent opener, “Dawa of Yousafzai.”

Where my brain struggled a bit was trying to determine whether or not it would be beneficial to shine a light on the fact the band is comprised solely of women. Yes, I suppose it can be beneficial to underscore something such as this, for any number of reasons, but it’s of course not at all necessary. In the case of Castrator, however, it’s worth mentioning not only because death metal in particular continues to be largely dominated by men, but also in light of the truth that the unique lyrical slant behind Defiled in Oblivion is something that becomes all the more potent when delivered by, you know, powerful and resolved women. Awesome.

That being said, it’s also worth noting that despite the exceptionally fitting name CASTRATOR, the approach here is not at all… mean-spirited. At least not in the way it could be, considering the endless years spent by awkward pornogrind and brutal / slam bands exploiting limitless avenues for undermining women. In contrast, there’s really nothing at all cartoonish about Castrator—no dicks on the bbq, no demands for balls to be nailed to a cross, no lyrics concerning men being bred as cattle and hwarfing down fodder at some slaughter trough. No, Defiled in Oblivion forthrightly delivers consequential themes largely specific to women, and it does so through the lens of classic, face-shredding death metal that slashes with a little more sophistication compared to, say, a brutal chainsaw. Hell, even the cut specifically based on literal castration, “Voices of Evirato,” does so from a benevolent slant, finding a way to tack a storming death metal gallop to the band’s sympathetic perspective concerning the gruesome 16th century act of castration prior to puberty in order to maintain a soprano voice. Yowzers.

But back to that riff buffet, which Castrator hovers over 24/7, spooning out heavy hitter after heavy hitter until the listener has little choice but to finally switch to sweatpants in hopes of easing their annihilated body into the rumble and reel of digestion. New guitarist Kimberly Orellana’s riff playbook might actually need a pallet jack to handle, and her knifing fretwork is paired perfectly alongside the ever hustling percussive assault of Carolina Perez (Hypoxia). Tap into “Inquisition of Sins” for ample proof:

The song jumps from the gate with a riff that could’ve been peeled from an Obituary World Demise outtake, then it thrashes about as the throttle opens up a bit more before an interesting little breakout riff around 1:20 shifts the mood toward something more sinister. At 2:20, a wild and equally Obituaried lead jumps for the throat, followed by a fun stretch where (new) vocalist Clarissa Badini (Vicious Blade) slowly starts unraveling… Howling and barking and just generally going bananas as the song eventually circles back to chopping you in half with the riff heard at the outset.

Let’s talk a bit more about the leads. Pretty much every song has exactly one, and they’re not only nice in that they run the gamut from soaring to wriggling to lightning and provide an ideal counterbalance to the unmitigated barrage that surrounds them, they are, as far as I can tell, provided entirely by guests: Obituary guitarist Kenny Andrews, who of course provides the wriggler in the above-mentioned “Inquisition Sins”; Moyses Kolesne (!!!) of the mighty Krisiun (a band that also happens to have a new album dropping this year); and Danial Gonzalez, who not only shares space in Gruesome with Castrator bassist / all around metal maven Robin Mazen (also of Derkéta), he helped with the all around production of Defiled in Oblivion. So, yes, the lead work here is pretty crucial, as it provides just enough presence to deliver a hook, but it’s never overly noodly or overstated. Check out the vintage Rick Rozz whammy-attack that spices the final moments of “Tyrant’s Verdict,” the album’s final original cut before closing things out with a cover of Venom’s “Countess Bathory.”

Assuming you’re not an absolute sorehead, there’s really not a lot to gripe about here. The production could probably use a touch more…dynamism—the bass, for example, is mostly relegated to fluttering and brooding in the backdrop like the dark skies in a Bizarro World Bob Ross painting, and who in their right mind would say no to more bass breakouts from the wildly capable Robin Mazen. Also, as mentioned, this isn’t exactly the most innovative sounding death metal record you’ll hear in 2022, but that’s pretty much contrary to its objective, which is to slaughter the listener with a savage viciousness that summons Florida circa 1990 and bands forced to rehearse at storage spaces. Plus, what Defiled in Oblivion lacks in terms of musical novelty it makes up for by pinning a fresh perspective to a bygone era that it so worthily pays tribute to, which is vital. Bottom line: If you love death metal that sounds old but ain’t stuck in the middle ages, Castrator’s Defiled in Oblivion should definitely ping your radar.

Posted by Captain

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; I got the Wordle in 1 guess; Just get evil all the time.

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