They say never judge a book by its cover (amongst other things). In the case of `Only Hate Left’, the fourth album by French death metal pummelists, any snap judgements you might make on glancing at the cover will only be partly true.

Yes, the band have a wonderfully spiky, ethereal-looking logo, and also a lurid album cover. It is indeed death metal, just as you would expect it to be from a quick glance. The first couple of seconds of the opening number `Alone’ do nothing to surprise you; there is an almighty gurgle from vocalist Jermome, some ultra-heavy, blasting, crunching riffs and drums pouring angrily out of the speakers ready to tear your ears off. However, after a few seconds of this, things start to change, indeed become more interesting.

Brutal this band may be, but they also have a wonderfully old-school sense of dynamics. Once the first few seconds of aggressive blasting are over, Recueil Morbide allow the dark, heavy, atmospheric side of their music to ooze darkly around you. Rather than slapping hundreds of riffs together over a collection of insane blast beats, this band are more comfortable bludgeoning you with grim, intense determination. Recueil Morbide are actually heavy and dark, unlike a lot of more `brutal’ death metal bands, and really know how to create a morbid, obscure atmosphere.

At times they have the dark, channelled speed and aggression of bands like Vader, at other times the sheer weight of the riffs threaten to cave your face in; all this without resorting to meaningless grind – every riff counts towards the oppressive nature of each well-crafted song. These aren’t the only tricks up their blackened sleeves however; with the creative use of grim harmonies, and strange hypnotic sections (showcased particularly well on songs like `Slavery’) this band really have their own unique flavour, something the vast majority of death metal bands don’t have.

Of course, they know when to rage like psychotic beasts when they need to, and at full throttle, Recueil Morbide are as devastating  and effective as Immolation, Vader and a whole host of other, bigger names in the global death metal scene.

The first glance may indeed give you the impression of `yet another death metal album’, but there is much more to this face-ripping, yet creative band. For those seeking an interesting, dark and crushingly heavy blend of old and new, brutal American and grim European, furious and yet hypnotic death metal, you should certainly give this album a try.

(7.5/10 Jon Butlin)