I realised quite quickly that listening to this album from Sweden’s Gutter Instinct was a case of putting in the hard yards. This weighty death metal tome is, as they have it, “another morbid outlook on explicit realities”.
It’s not all monotony but equally it would defeat the object if there was colour in “Heirs of Sisyphus”. The overriding impression is of a grey, bleak and hopeless world. The sound is sufficiently discordant to be disturbing. And of course it’s loud and heavy. “Zenon” breaks into a frantic explosion of sirening guitars before getting back to the grim business of pumping out death metal with the statutory overshadowing darkness and a hint of atmosphere. It’s a grey day outside and this tortured stuff is the ideal accompaniment. Growled mutterings of “suffering” fall within the vocal support to the oblique and dingy instrumentals of “The Abyss Speaks”. It hardly gets the juices flowing, well not mine anyway. Hard work, endurance, punishment, pain – this is what it’s all about. One slab follows another. They’re more or less in the same pattern. I appreciated the malevolent vibe, and to be fair Gutter Instinct do break it down and vary the tempo, while always presenting us this landscape of devastation and struggle. Repeating the chorus and title “Shock Doctrine” does seem to suggest a void of ideas, but this at least was followed by a menacing and dangerous passage, which deviated from the norm. It ended the track so it didn’t take us anywhere. We are woken up by the fiery “Uncreation”, but soon we’re back to the customary leaden-heavy weight and customary hardship. Utterances in what I presume is Swedish punctuate here the slowly advancing death machine. There’s a curiously lighter interlude in “Tip of the Spear”, just as I thought there was no hope. That was a nice touch musically but I couldn’t figure out its connection with inevitable stream of deathly tones, which sandwiched it. I think it has to do with the killing of a black bear. The title track, after a ponderous start, introduces elements of bleak melancholy and the tempo varies throughout its meandering course, but again the mood reflects withering contempt and murderous values.
Although I’ve listened to plenty, I don’t in truth have a pure death metal brain so I can’t say whether hanging on for survival is a good or bad thing for the soul. That’s how I felt while listening to “Heirs of Sisyphus”. Thematically and instrumentally, it sticks to the plan, assuming that the plan is to represent morbid suffering in a death metal framework. So to that end this album is effective.
(6/10 Andrew Doherty)