Decrepitaph is an interesting band, hailing from Texas (though the drummer Elektrokutioner once played in a bunch of local bands like Scum Bitch, Eternal Suffering and Skulleton here in New England), but sounding much more akin to the crude death metal of the earlier European scene. Their horror inspired lyrics and campy old school veneer make them a perfect fit for Razorback. With a numbing, full bodied guitar tone that reminds of old Entombed, but a pacing that often crawls more along the Bolt Thrower path, Beyond the Cursed Tombs is a solid followup to their 2008 debut Condemned Cathedral.
I can't say I love all the songwriting, because it's hardly possessive of any more ambition than to simply deliver on its 'back to the roots' mentality, but they do manage to keep the riffs from becoming a slog-fest of mediocrity, and this is accomplished through simple dynamic shifts. Nothing is extended out beyond where it needs to be. They rip at you with a driving barrage of open picking and then break for a mosh, or a subtle lead, and the leads deserve credit for helping elevate this over just another tribute band. For all their simplicity, they evoke a massive amount of creepy mystique ("Castle of the Doomed" is a fine example of this). Coincidentally, that is one of the better songs on the album, along with the turbulent crusher "It Shrieks from Below", the carnal crunch of "Repugnant Manifestations" and the plodding manifestations of "Desecrated Divinity". The 10+ minute title track closer also deserves a mention, an 'epic' which paces itself with a lengthy, atmospheric haunting intro and a lot of, dare I say 'graceful' melody that breaks up the necromantic surge of its retro riffing.
I'd say that overall, this is a slightly better offering than Condemned Cathedral, for its primal refinements. It doesn't feel as raw as that album, but it makes up for it with slightly better riffs and lyrics, the latter of which have a lot more to them than one might expect out of a band so fun and old school as this one. Decrepitaph could certainly up the ante far more than this, but Beyond the Cursed Tombs is a very well rounded, complete experience which successfully bridges the narrow gap between classic, morbid horror and gut busting, classic death metal, which if you can remember, used to thrive on its frightening tones and implications rather than the technical Olympics it has begun to sate the attention spans of the competitive and short fused younger generations. Not perfect, but if Texas is ever to produce a Left Hand Path or Mental Funeral, my money is on Decrepitaph as the author.
Highlights: It Shrikes from Below, Castle of the Doomed, Beyond the Cursed Tombs
Verdict: Win [7.5/10] (scalpels dripping final remnants)