VanWhat’s that? A Swedish death metal band, releasing their third album you say? A band which I haven’t come across before?! Egads! Thus, I approached ‘Relics of Sulphur Salvation’ with all the trepidation of a starved puppy to an over-filled food bowl, consuming and relishing with gleeful abandon.

Pulverised sure can pick them, that’s for certain. Vanhelgd charms with something similar to the Stockholm guitar tone; that thick, slippery chainsaw gutsfuck of a sound that the maxed out HM2 pedal can pretty much only produce. However, their style generally follows a more melodious yet savage riff path trodden by the likes of Unanimated or At the Gates. As the Swedeath scene is such a saturated business in this day and age, it takes something different to stand apart. Hell, when there are literally thousands of your contemporaries who can get that EXACT same guitar tone and plough all the same furrows with it, you either need to go down the Tribulation route of infusing occult weirdness to your sound, or you could just smash out your music with such conviction that you as the listener daren’t question its authenticity. Vanhelgd fall very much into the latter category, marrying cavernous cave-dwelling growls, manically unstable percussion and tremolo picked riffs the size of Greenland to create an entirely impressive album of thrills, spills and rotten-bile drenched bellyaches.

The muscular riffage carries the album through in the main, embracing with crushing power, squeezing with intent to harm. An album birthed with a congenital sickness, ‘Relics of Sulphur Salvation’ sounds truly old – in the perfect way. This could easily have been a lost album discovered from the early 90s, sure – but the overall feel is archaic. Old in a Lovecraftian sense. This album doesn’t just rattle the bones; it crushes them in a vice, makes bread from the dust, consumes and then shits it out a horrific heaving mess of your sorry remnants. For me, the final two tracks of the album sum up the variation of Vanhelgd best; ‘Sirens of Lampedusa’ utilising the eerie Entombed/Dismember crawling repetitive guitar melody to great effect, running guitar melodies flying effortlessly from the speakers, before album closer ‘Cure Us From Life’ pulls out a punkish edge, clattering out a dusty, gnarled d-beat to get the neck snapping to its gritty rhythms. Two tracks which although cut from the same cloth, show very different sides to their sound.

For me, this is one of the better Swedish death metal albums I’ve heard in 2014 so far – praise indeed from someone who listens to pretty much nothing but that very subgenre for a good portion of my free time. Howling with untamed aggression, authentic riffage and a downright dirty sound, Vanhelgd batter your senses with primeval power. Do not miss out on this.

(8.5/10 Lars Christiansen)