It is fair to say that Devangelic’s sophomore release `Phlegethon’ is one heavy album. Meatier than a 48 ounce steak between two giant hams, this is a truly crushing, devastating album. This is a prime cut, if you will, of brutal Death/Gore metal in the classic vein.
The production is absolutely pristine for this sub-genre of death metal, all instruments are balanced perfectly for maximum weight and neck-breaking heaviness. The drums thunder across the whole album with incredible speed and precision, yet they never dominate completely, as is found on some albums. For the most part, the pure crushing mass of the guitars is allowed to spread itself out and smother the listener in a wall of unadulterated brutality (I’m not even sure that makes sense). The vocals are very low and guttural, reminiscent of Chris Barnes on the early Cannibal Corpse albums. Some thought has clearly gone into the lyrics, as they are quite dark, interesting and obscure, but you can’t make out a single word. I am indeed aware that I probably sound like some old curmudgeon, but why bother writing interesting lyrics if you can’t enunciate even a few syllables here and there?
It is incredibly relentless, and as I mentioned before very heavy indeed. For those that are still in love with the ultra-intense brutal death/gore style of metal played by bands like Disgorge and their ilk, there will be a lot to like on this album. I, for one, find it a little bit wearing however. The classic ultra-brutal death metal trick is used a lot here; a different palm muted note that matches each blast beat individually, creating that `chugga-chugga-chugga’ effect is used extensively on pretty much every song. It is certainly skull-smashingly weighty, but it does get rather repetitive to my old ears.
I think Devangelic are at their most dark, bleak and devastating when they slow it down. Aside from the blasting-by-numbers, there are some really neat, slow, soul-sucking passages, utilizing morbid, atonal riffs and melancholy harmonies. My favourite track on the whole album is `Of Maggots and Disease’, partly because it is the only track that uses a different tempo to the others. It is full of nasty, crawling grimness and I think the band do this really well when they put their minds to it.
A lot of the album washed over me to be honest; yes it is brutal and heavy, but it’s also rather repetitive, and a lot of the songs are very similar, especially when the blasting starts. If you’re a fan of the ultra-brutal stuff you may find a lot to like in here. It’s obvious the band can really play, and can also create a dark and evil atmosphere when they put their minds to it, but I found a lot of this album a bit monotonous.
(6.5/10 Jon Butlin)