Thursday, March 3, 2011

Feral - Dragged to the Altar (2011)

There are limitless bands touting the Swedish party line in the field of death metal these days, but few of them proudly proclaim to fall into the death & roll category, despite the similarity so many bear to Entombed's 1992-1993 period. Into the fray steps Feral, an act likely to turn a lot of heads due to their excellent songwriting, huge production standards and shameless proclivity towards the tag, not to mention their spirited manifestation of influences. You'll hear the Wolverine Blues here, the Unleashed, the Desultory and Grave, all modernized and easily consumed alongside the band's brutally clear tones, writhing rock & roll leads and constant, carnal blitzing. After a few demos, the band has inked a deal through Ibex Moon and delivered one hell of a debut.

Like Wolverine Blues (the most obvious comparison piece), Feral do well to diversify their songwriting through a number of shifts between groove oriented fare and straight death. Cuts like "Once Inside the Tomb" and the ravenous "Altar of Necromancy" are spring loaded with energy and faster drum sequences, not unlike an "Eyemaster", but full cognizant of their rock halves; while "Judas", like a "Demon", goes straight for the ballsy swaggering hooks, pumping bass and effects. The vocalist is named 'Hook', and though he bears the expected resemblance to a L-G Petrov, he's got a thicker broth to his tone that sounds simply incendiary in this mix, especially thrust over the catchier tracks like "Howling", "Graverobber", and the chugging beast "Behead the Crucifix", all of which create the impulse to grab a bottle of Jack Daniels, drink it low, dig a ditch and then throw yourself into it. Honorable mention must also go to the closer, "Malevolent Summoning", which is intensely fun with a thick, dynamic thrashing vortex.

The only point at which the band relieve you of the thorough face rocking is the outro, a sober acoustic that sends the muscles into rigor mortis, much needed after this copious tirade. This is easily one of the best death & roll hybrids in history, making short work of Desultory's divisive Swallowed by the Snake or Vermin's virtually unknown Filthy F***ing Vermin, and coming damn near close to its direct spiritual forebear. Mix-wise, it may just be the best, with an even cleaner facade than countrymen Evocation, but losing none of the potential menace. Strange as it might be to find something so obviously an homage 'refreshing', but where so many hundreds of bands are biting off the grueling intensity of Left Hand Path, it's fascinating to see one headed in the other direction. Dragged to the Altar might ultimately seem further evidence of nothing new under the sun, but who needs the fucking sun anyway? Nighttime is much more metal.

Verdict: Win [8.25/10]

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