That cover art is wonderfully dark and gnarly isn’t it? Created by none other than the legend that is the late Zdzisław Beksiński, and portraying what seems to be an abode made of human remains (replete with TV aerial just to set the imagination running on who/what lurks within), it’s a great start for my introduction to Near Death Condition. However, once ‘Evolving Towards Extinction’ begins to fly from my speakers, things only get better and better. This is the third album from these Swiss deathly blasters, and my what an impression it has left after a good number of spins (not only on yours truly, but also likely my neighbours – you just can’t listen to it at a low level!).
Being on the Unique Leader is generally a badge of quality (I don’t think there are many underground labels who do brutal/tech death metal much better), but Near Death Condition certainly have a point of difference to their sound which sets them apart from the ravaging slew of bands who all sound so similar in the scene. Opening with ‘Words of Wisdom’, you’re instantly blown back on your heels by the Hate Eternal / Origin styled rampage, clothing billowing and skin flapping as the unrelenting torrent of low end chords and rippling rhythms beat you into submission. As soon as the first melodic solo bubbles forth, you can hear the classic Morbid Angel/Azagthothian twists and turns burning brightly, with the ever driving drumming and pounding riffage marrying up perfectly to create an entirely satisfying sound.
Of course the added edge of Azagthoth/Rutan styled solo work helps to give these guys the X factor, but there’s more than just that to it. There are lots of other little interesting nuances which appear every now and then (such as a brief burst of an eerie choir-like effect amongst the discordant carnage in ‘Intelligent Design’, along with other little surprises which rise to the surface, all managing to sound completely normal alongside the their mostly brutal nature). These guys are fast, angry and crushing but know how to pull off the slower, ‘vice popping head’ moments too, with the mixing of tempos adding variation and allowing the overall sound to stay fresh without repetition. You can certainly tell one song from the next, something many of their contemporaries can’t honestly profess to.
The vocals are guttural and filthy and the drumming is unforgivingly fast and technical, but the thing that kept me coming back was the top quality riff style. It’s of course punctuated with a lot of hard blasting, fret runs and barely controlled chaos, but there are some real killer riffs here. The prime slabs of meaty songwriting come together to sound like the unmistakable soundtrack to a collection of horrific incidents, scenes of grisly horrors, unspeakable insanity and the pinnacles of degradation. Chiming guitars churn and twist, heaving like a monstrous beast in its death throes, wailing and mournful one moment before flailing and attacking with wild rage the next.
Unique Leader have a real gem on their hands with Near Death Condition, and the band have a new fan on their books in me. I’d love to catch these guys in the live environment too, because if they’re even half as energetic on stage as this album is on plastic, they’d certainly be wrecking more than just necks. ‘Evolving Towards Extinction’ is an unfettered beast of an album, mixing discordant brutality with a fine ear for melody to concoct a winning formula of death – drink deep!
(8.5/10 Lars Christiansen)