These boys work fast it seems. Hot on the heels of 2013’s ‘Omen Ex Simulacra’ comes the latest instalment of disturbing, horrific death metal from the prolific US-based duo. Coming as it does barely 9 months after that most recent record Aevangelistwould suggest that the flames of inspiration are burning ever brighter for Aevangelist and – as is the standard with Debemur Morti these days – the press blurb for ‘Writhes in the Murk’ promises big things: dark ambient, noise, jazz, avant-gardisms, they’re throwing everything in there. Doubtless the kitchen sink would feature too had it been suitably corrupted by some form of lurking Lovecraftian cosmic horror.

The thing is, I was less than thrilled with ‘Omen Ex Simulacra’ – for all its ‘extreme cosmic horror’ posturing and despite making all the right noises on the surface, it became a deeply repetitive and dissatisfying listen. The central idea of murky, chugging chords, endless ‘eerie’ synth noise and continuous multi-tracked vocal babbling became overplayed to the point of numbness across the record’s lengthy playing time. Style over substance, if you will.

Thankfully, ‘Writhes in the Murk’ addresses these issues admirably. This is a far more coherent and defined album – no less discordant and disturbing, but one demonstrating a greater appreciation of songcraft and dynamics. Instrumentalist Matron Thorn has clearly decided less (well, a little bit less) is more and opener ‘Hosanna’ brings some defined, upper-string discordance into Aevangelist’s murky template, underpinned by some slower percussion and gradual build of dynamics.

The opening next couple of tracks resonate very familiarly and truth be told, could have been lifted from this album’s predecessor – lots of chugging, lots of clattering drums and very little by way anything distinctive. It’s only with the aptly-named interlude ‘Disquiet’ (all sinister bursts of electronic percussion and simmering synth) that the album starts to really show its quality. It sounds like something from the Thorns record and from here, we are plunged into a salvo of top-drawer tracks that finally do manage to blend both the sense of chaotic cosmic malice and top-drawer extreme metal songcraft that Aevangelist seem to be striving for.

‘Aelixir’ is truly excellent, boasting a cascading refrain of discordant guitar whilst the demented-yet-mournful saxophone draped across the end of the song takes it to another level. It is followed by the doleful chug of ‘Haerken to the Flesh’ in which the occasionally anonymous death metal riffing of Aevangelist finally clicks into gear. The howling leads as the track reaches its climax are inspired.  ‘Halo of Lamented Glory’ brings with it an infectious, driving feel with the sinister shrieking noises towards the end being particularly effective. The 10-minute closing title track meanwhile shifts ambience entirely with a lengthy introduction of glittering, echoey neofolk-inspired acoustic guitar which evolves into a distended and hypnotic ending to the album.

This second half of the album really showcases this duo’s potential and certainly elevates ‘Writhes in Murk’ significantly above its predecessor. Some of my previous misgivings with Aevangelist remain – the production for example is pretty rough and not in a good way. It reeks of ‘PC home-recorded demo’, in particular the thin-sounding drums (which I assume are being played on an electronic kit) and general ‘digital’ air. An over-reliance on faceless chuggery and the same-old synth noise still persists (particularly in the first half of the abum) but overall, this record is a very definite step in the right direction.

(7/10 Frank Allain)