Genre: Death Metal | Label: Unspeakable Axe Records
Location: Various| Listen: Bandcamp
Unspeakable Axe Records has been making quite a splash in the metal underground over the past few years. The Dark Descent sub-label has been releasing quality death and thrash metal in the old school vein since their inception. Their latest release, “4 Doors to Death,” features four ripping death metal bands across ten tracks that comes together as the first worthwhile release I’ve heard this year.
The first three tracks are by Cemetery Filth, who have recently emerged out of Tennessee. Their songs are full of furious death/thrash riffs that stem out of the Morbid Angel school. I wasn’t really aware of these guys until this split was announced, and they only had a lone demo prior to this release. Needless to say, what these guys are doing is pretty exciting. The riffs are drenched in evil, and are sure to satisfy any old school death metal fan. Even the production sounds like Mike Browning era Morbid Angel. This is old school death metal to the bone, and Cemetery Filth will hopefully put out a full length if these songs are any indication of what to expect in the future.
Coming next is Ectovoid, a dark death metal band from Alabama. They’ve put out a couple of albums, and much like Cemetery Filth, I was inclined to check some of their material out in anticipation of this split. The two tracks they present on the split are very dark, which becomes apparent within seconds. The first track will satisfy Incantation/Disciples of Mockery fans with it’s contrast of blasts and churning death/doom sections. Ectovoid’s second offering switching gears to a looser Autopsy feel, complete with infectiously evil melodies. These are probably the “rawest” sounding songs on the split, but by no means is that a negative. It fits the cavernous style these guys are going on, and helps muster up a suffocating atmosphere.
The main reason I was anticipating “4 Doors to Death” has to do with the next two bands. Sabbatory’s debut album was one of my favourites of 2014, as it was morbid journey of twisted riffs in the vein of Morgoth. These Canadians from Winnipeg return with a new track and a cover. The band hits full throttle with their first track, displaying more and more ferocity as the song goes on. Sabbatory’s riffs morph by way of rhythmic variety (punk beats, blasts, pummeling double kick work, etc), and are successful due to tight interplay between the drums and guitar picking. The vocals sound more like Martin van Drunen than ever, and Asphyx/Pestilence also appear to have their influence in the riffs. Their Mortuary Drape cover is savage, and if you weren’t aware that it was a cover, you’d think this was one of their own songs. These are probably the best sounding tracks on the split, and the sheer energy of the performances makes it the highlight for me.
The final three songs belong to Philadelphia’s Trenchrot. Trenchrot obviously worship Bolt Thrower and various other death metal classics, and their 2014 album was another favourite from that year. Here we get more of the same, starting off with a slow riff that builds up into a warlike blitzkrieg of death metal. Plenty of midpaced grooves with double kick work break up the songs, and this is definitely where the Bolt Thrower influence is apparent. My only complaint about Trenchrot’s recording is that the kick drum sounds odd. On previous recordings, the drums have always been really loud, but here it just sounds overly compressed. That aside, these are some seriously solid slabs of death metal, complete with some top notch lead guitar and a Death cover to boot.
Label head Eric Musall really did a wonderful job putting together this split. Anyone who’s ever been involved in a split can tell you the potential for headaches in regards to coordinating more than one band for a release, and in this case, we have four bands that all managed to put forth quality material. If that doesn’t earn him any credit, you have to give it up to him for contributing artwork (the Sabbatory one in particular is incredible), layouts, and even some audio engineering. “4 Doors to Death” is home run, and it’s great to see a project of this scope come out so well.