A second album so quickly? Well, maybe not actually quickly, given that their last record, the rather fun “Rabid Armageddon” came out in 2015. Still, I guess time does seem to work rather speedily when spent in the company of some top quality, old school Scandinavian death metal, eh?
Even if you aren’t au fait with their first album, a cursory glance at the bands which spawn the wrecking crew for Under the Church will perhaps give more than a few clues as to the sound to be experienced here. So what are those bands? Well, a couple of former members of Nirvana 2002, as featured on the “Swedish Death Metal” compilation, as well as spawn of such outfits as Merciless and General Surgery, among the better known ones.
“Supernatural Punishment” is, then, a fairly ruthless and rampaging slab of thick and chunky Scandinavian death metal very strongly in the vein of Dismember, Grave and Entombed – or rather, in this case, Carnage and Nihilist. The death metal riffs are certainly pretty chewy and groove-laden, but everything is covered in a rather addictive layer of rawness that the demo scene used to bring with it. Perhaps best illustrated on “Vitalising Funeral”, which comes across like the bastard son of a Nihilist and Nifelheim death and speed metal coupling (Christ, imagine how ugly those kids would be!), “Supernatural Punishment” isn’t afraid to mix in the aesthetics of early to mid eighties speed metal into the mix.
Of course, given that the production tends towards favouring that trademark buzzsaw guitar sound, it’d be relatively easy to write this crew up as yet another in the long line of Entombed-a-likes, but it really is that one foot in the rather tight-trouser-und-high-top age of tape-trading; of riffs that don’t try and sound too cool, but rather exist on their own terms. Special mention has to go to the guitar solos, caterwauling as they do like those found on Slayer’s “Haunting the Chapel”, while concrete-thick riffs like those on the brilliantly titled “Crypt of Pelvises” smash into your ears as if they’d been flung from a motorway bridge into your path.
In terms of the other stuff going on: well yes, the drums get a thorough thrashing, as if they’d caused Erick Qvick some personal harm and he’s out for revenge, while the bass is pleasingly high in the mix, competing with the gravelly rhythm guitars and castrated axe-smithery providing solos and melodies. The vocals are hoarse, but completely decipherable, which is a nice and slightly unexpected touch. The production does a sterling job of bringing some sense of order to what could otherwise have been quite a chaotic offering. Everything is in good shape and presented to your waiting ears. Once or twice, I was reminded of the slightly deranged sound of The Ravenous or Necrophagia, with a similar fevered atmosphere brought to mind.
A great follow up then, and a really strong album all round for these veterans. Simple things, done well, are often more fun than contrived technicality. Under the Church? Over the moon.
(8/10 Chris Davison)