By: Alex Phillips
Label: Hells Headbangers / Debemur Morti Productions
Available: October 21st, 2014
Murk, mud, goop, glop, slime, ooze, any unclassifiable semi-liquid that may or may not contain organisms but more than likely is itself a HazMat life form whose attitude and manners are at best unpleasant—this has always been a theme in which death metal has wallowed. Think Morbid Angel, Demilich, Prostitute Disfigurement, et al. But what happens when death metal tries to shape the ooze into concrete music? Efforts to replicate this jizzy primordial staple from every D&D Monster Manual in audio form tend to result in noise that irritates even the most masochistic of metalheads. Bands who layer soundscapes upon cacophonies upon groans of the damned just for effect are instead brewing up a sonic diarrhea, the leading cause of rashy ear canal. Ooze does not lend itself to metal’s “experimental” subgenres—experiments that often fail musically. But there is a band whose love for the ooze shines through in all the right places: Ævangelist.
Ævangelist first arose in 2010, and in four years its inhuman wailing has provoked much critical attention. Ævangelist’s first album, De Masticatione Mortuorum in Tumulis, emerged in 2012 as a terror-tinged monstrosity whose distorted pummeling shook the very foundations of the Underworld. The following year saw the release of Omen Ex Simulacra, nightmare-made-Art, a work that suggests as its origins whatever hell demons fear going to. I count the latter album among 2013’s best. On both albums Ævangelist takes the bizarre, unorthodox, pushed-over-the-limits approach to death metal unlike any other band. You should not hesitate to start fistfights over copies of Omen Ex Simulacra and De Masticatione Mortuorum in Tumulis.
Having succeeded in their efforts at sounding like a cross between ritual Cenobite summoning and the torture of someone else’s audio engineering equipment, Ævangelist now presents us Writhes in the Murk, the latest experiment in ooze. As a death metal record, Writhes in the Murk could not be labeled a failure. All the essential body parts are there: guttural vocals, schizophrenic riffs, blasting drums. But considered as an experiment, this time the ooze seems to have been poured too thin. The many layers of sound, noise, even saxophones, mark the album as distinct—you know who you’re hearing—but it doesn’t quite reach the chilling level of torment that the previous albums’ soundscapes could, like ingredients in some horrible butter churn. I used the word “unclassifiable” earlier, and I’ll invoke it again. With three albums of unclassifiable death metal in three years, could Ævangelist have pushed this album out too soon? Or too hastily? Maybe. But I don’t doubt for a moment that Writhes in the Murk will appeal to the more rabid extreme music fans. It’s not for everyone, but it’s not as if Ævangelist is trying to win popularity contests or commercial radio play. This band pursues something beyond that, a primordial sound that by design repels most who approach it. And that’s how it should be.
If you’re prepared to be horrified, check out Ævangelist’s bandcamp page (URL at the top of the review).