Genre: Death Metal | Label: Nuclear War Now
Location: Melbourne, Australia| Listen: Bandcamp
The trajectory of death metal has taken many twists and turns over the years, with many off-shots becoming popular, while other styles dying and later being revitalized. Back in the mid 2000s, you could find many “death” metal bands pushing the style further into melodic, technical, or brutal realms. The more straightforward and “pure” sounding death metal bands either died off or just weren’t as prominent anymore. Not to say it was entirely dead, as bands like Incantation never strayed too far from their roots, but it sure felt like its heyday was over. This was soon to change later in the decade, as a lot of new bands started popping up that were highly influenced by the likes of the previously mentioned Incantation, focusing on dark and cavernous atmospheres. Once such band from Australia, Ignivomous, was at the forefront of this resurgence, and their debut album has held up extremely well over time.
“Death Transmutation” had a decent amount of hype before it came out. Ignivomous had previously released a demo to critical acclaim in the underground, and they dropped a 7″ the year before the album. Needless to say, the hype was well deserved, as not only does it capture that brooding atmosphere that is so often associated with the “caverncore” bands that started popping up at this time, but the focus of quality riffs is really what made Ignivomous worth coming back to time and time again. A high level of musicality is executed here, with a variety of riffs and feels. Take the title track, for example – a doom laden mid section (complete with the expected pinch harmonics) gives way to some layered guitars that create a feeling of spiraling into the abyss as they interact with each other.
Of course, the main appeal of death metal isn’t just how heavy it is, because ripping tremolo riffs at high speeds is just as crucial. “Noneuclidean Maelstrom,” for example, displays these riffs against a variety of drum beats, which are further varied to keep the songs from being monotonous. Chris Broadway employs a jackhammer style of blastbeats kind of like Suffocation, as opposed to the scissor blast that you’d hear in Incantation. He does a lot of double kick beats too while avoiding dragging things out, such as during the solo section in “The World Upon Nihil.” Again, songs like this employ some dual guitar work to create some tension and depth to the song. The band originally featured two guitarists, but one quit before the album, so Sean Hinds essentially pulls double duty by playing both parts.
One of the stand out features of “Death Transmutation” (and Ignivomous’ discography in general) is its disdain for modern production. This recording feels really honest – there’s not a lot of emphasis on clicky drums, the guitars have a natural air to them, and nothing seems like it’s been overly squashed. Don’t confuse this for an amateur recording – they seem to have been conscious enough to EQ out the undesirable elements that any professional would normally take care of, such as the hollow boxy tones that are usually found in the drums. You can still hear the kicks and everything, but it just sounds very natural, as if the band consciously wanted to defy the overly clinical sound that plagued so many brutal and technical death metal bands throughout the decade. Sometimes I wish the toms had a little more boom to them, but it’s by no means a deal breaker.
After all these years, I still find “Death Transmutation” just as enjoyable as I did when it first came out. Hell, maybe I like it even more now, because it stands as a cut above a lot of other cavernous death metal bands that were coming out at the same time, and that can be directly attributed to the strength of the music itself. Between the ripping fast tremolo riffs and doom sections, Ignivomous keeps a delicate balance in their songs, and the more raw approach to production gives it a suffocating atmosphere that is perfectly suited for evil death metal. I sometimes find myself forgetting I own this album because I have to store it with my 7″ records due to the extra large booklet, but whenever I do remember to bust this one out, the inner Incantation fanboy in me is completely satisfied. “Caverncore” often gets mentioned with an eye roll when discussing modern death metal, but I assure any curious readers that this album has stood up against the test of time and should be welcomed into any death metal fan’s collection.