Death metal, eh? I mean, one minute there you are in a thrash metal t-shirt and drinking cider down the park listening to “Scream Bloody Gore”, you blink, and then the next moment you’re rapidly approaching your mid 40s, and bands are banging on about “polyrhythms” and waxing lyrical about how technical their riffing is, and how weird the time changes are. What happened to a more straight forward approach to the necrotic art?
Well, of late of course there has been a bit of a resurgence in bands looking at a more, shall we say “old school” approach to song writing. Barely a week goes by without an “old school” Scandinavian death metal band, but with the exception of artists like Gruesome, there really aren’t all that many bands with a knack for writing death metal in the way that acts like Death or Possessed used to do it in the eighties.
Undead Prophecies though, are one of these exceptions. “Sempiternal Void” is the kind of album that doesn’t muck about. You put it into the music player of your choice, it kicks in the front door, turns the furniture upside down in your living room and then leaves again, without so much as wiping its shoes. There’s an approach to song writing that goes something like this:
* Establish three to four good riffs
* Sort out a killer, insistent drum beat or two
* Bass work that burbles while churning
* Vocals gruffly saying things that sound mostly unpleasant
Mix on a medium heat, simmer over a production that’s powerful yet retains the original dryness of the patented Scott Burns Filter (TM), and release to good effect. There’s a complete choppy Thrash-turned-to-11 approach to the axe work, while there’s enough actual musicality to bring to mind the more progressive sections of albums such as, say, “Spiritual Healing” or Sepultura’s “Arise” on tracks such as the magnificent “Insidious Manipulations”.
For the most part, this is good old fashioned heads-down riff soup, with a nod towards setting all the settings to “MAX”, though there is enough of a feeling of mercy towards the listener that it isn’t all bludgeon; there is some dynamism in terms of the speed and approach on tracks such as the slightly less rabid “Devoured”. By way of originality, there are nine home-written tracks here from the (mysterious) five piece. The band photos depict the crew as shrouded wraiths, faces obscured, and to be honest I quite like the air of mystery which extends to them all using stage names such as “King Oscuro” (Vocals). They even manage to chuck in a cheeky Celtic Frosted version of the classic Venom track “Warhead”, which they manage to pull through the undergrowth backwards, to good effect.
It’s got a little niche of its own this album, being heavily inspired by the death metal of yesteryear, but not being completely lost in some retro ghetto. Once upon a time, all death metal was made with an ear for a tune and simple things done well. Maybe one day, that time will return. Until then, this will do nicely…
(8/10 Chris Davison)