[Cover art by Misanthropic-Art]
The quickest way to find out if you’re likely to enjoy the third full length from Nebraska’s Garoted, Bewitchment Of The Dark Ages, is to answer some very simple questions. Those questions begin now:
- Do you enjoy death metal standard bearers Cannibal Corpse?
- Are you a fan of Deicide’s first two, most violent and unrelenting albums?*
- Would you also consider yourself a fan of Vader?
- Are you a human being of impeccable taste?
- Do you believe that the crust is the most important ingredient of a pizza?
If you answered “yes” to at least a couple of those first three questions, then congrats to you! This means that you’d likely also qualify as a “yes” to number four. However, answering “no” to number five could potentially cast doubts about your tastes and judgment in general.**
While the band is often mauling the listener as a well organized army ‒ those massive hits in “Black Canticle of Horror,” for example ‒ it’s impossible to ignore the chops of the individual members. Vocalist Devon Ferrera is a barrel of charisma and rage, and fully worthy of comparison to the inimitable vocalists that obviously serve as his biggest influences. Like a young Glen Benton, his vocals have a quality that sounds like he might be injuring himself. Like Corpsegrinder, he really archives that golden bellow when necessary. Like both of them, Ferrera has a knack for infectious vocal cadences, an often rapidfire delivery, and the ability to deliver at a wide tonal range. The screams in “Pestiferous” are particularly indebted to those old masters in the best possible ways.
Bassist J. Tennant isn’t exactly shredding like Alex Webster, but he’s doing a lot more than just doubling the guitars, and his thick tone helps contrast the brightness of the drums and higher six-string riffs. Speaking of those, whether he’s laying down lightspeed tremolo lines (the white hot Vader-by-way-of-Angelcorpse-isms in “Arcane Shadow Idolatry”), getting a lot techier, or ripping off some madness-inducing solos, guitarist Drew Frerking’s playing is incredibly spry throughout. He even offers occasionally nods to Shaune Kelley in his sassier moments and a war metal-adjacent attitude when he’s at his blurriest.
The blasts of drummer Nolan Weber undoubtedly help achieve that latter mode, but the man is much more than a simple hyperspeed blaster, but a player of serious style. Weber is constantly doing something that will remind of masters like Lille Gruber, from the rapid ghost strokes in “Khaos Soul Pandemonium” and wicked mid-blast hi-hat fun in opener “Infernal Death’s Majesty” to the occasional tonal variety (like switching off the snare for a fill) and all the ways he helps those full band hits. He’s a master of his craft in both the macro and micro of his setting, and because of this he elevates every second of this record.
The result of these talents (and of course a wicked set of tunes) is that Garoted manages to be both clinically tight without ever losing that feeling that they might spiral out of control at any second, just to spite you. It’s controlled madness and quite technical, but it’s so much the opposite of sterile tech-death that it might end up offending fans of such bands. So before delivering a final verdict, let’s have a few more questions:
- How much do you need your death metal to create the feeling that you’re being beaten into an unrecognizable pulp?
- Do you prefer a Mosh Part that comes about by virtue of good songcraft, and not crowd pandering?
- Would a Defeated Sanity cover of “Blaspherereion” be enticing?
- Do you enjoy music that hits with the fury and determination of an enraged Ralphie assailing Scut Farkus?
If your answer to question one on this list is anywhere in the range of “quite a bit” to “pain is the only sensation that makes me feel alive,” Garoted is definitely for you. By now it should also be obvious that answering “yes” to the other questions only adds to this necessity.
When it absolutely, positively, without a doubt has to be completely obliterated into oblivion, only a certain kind of death metal will do, and Garoted plays exactly that across the 36 unrelenting minutes of this record. As athletic as it is deadly, Bewitchment Of The Dark Ages is the death metal equivalent of the kitchen fight scene from The Raid 2.*** Or for a less sophisticated analogy (but is it?), maybe it’s a 90s ECW match between a couple gifted luchadores after someone threw a cheese grater and a couple baseball bats into the ring. Pretty sure you get the picture. Now get this album.
*Decide’s first two albums are towering classics and the best parallel to certain aspects of this Garoted album, but it’s a common misconception that there isn’t value later in their career. With the exception of a couple very bad early aughties albums, their entire career is some degree of solid to killer.
**While starting with a great crust is undoubtedly the most important step in making a pizza, even a perfect crust can be ruined by horrible toppings. Stop putting potatoes and pasta and ranch dressing on pizzas, you mooks.
***Haven’t seen the Raid movies? Watch the Raid movies.