Italians Deadly Carnage have conceived a quandary for their sophomore Sentiero II: Ceneri, an album which strafes the margins between heavily structured, bombastic and melodic black metal and threads of a more graceful, atmospheric nature that reek of a Gothic doom spectrum. At times, the material seemed somewhat confused in its intent, but that's not to say that they lack some compositional ability, and the way they pursue such warlike, percussive rhythms is not something you often experience among the methodic, straight blasting practitioners who represent the lion's share of the medium. I will go on a limb and say that the album reminded me of Portugal's Moonspell: not the Gothic, friendlier mainstream Moonspell of the mid to late 90s, but the more crushing black roots from which they emerged (and have since returned).
This is primarily in the sense of melody they weave through the rather churning, grandiose fare like "Guilt of Discipline" or "Epitaph Part I", and also in the overbearing volume of the vocals, which are enormous and bloody, Marcello giving you the full breadth and agony of his throat. Another, more obvious parallel can be drawn to Bathory's Blood Fire Death. The Italians like to utilize a lot of crashing, enormous, dipping rhythms that jerk the listener in and out of an almost Viking swagger of belligerence (also heavily present in the opener, "Guilt of Discipline"). Shifting and intricate walls of streaming tremolo guitars and intense double bass ability help to escalate these influences into a more precise, modern context. But then, there is the atmospheric and 'epic' side of this effort, like the 9 minute "Parallels" which feels like Falkenbach, Bathory and Dornenreich in a bloodied sea battle, with brief spurts of calm and deviation. Or the closer, "Ceneri", which is a tranquil and eloquent, 9+ minute piece with clean vocals.
Despite the obvious arsenal at their disposal, though, I did not find the majority of the music here to stick on me. Deadly Carnage could never be accused of lacking variation, evocative lyrical imagery or musical proficiency, because Sentiero II: Ceneri exhibits all of these elements in spades. For some reason, though, the content rolls off me like a wave breaking and ending its journey from the deeper sea. The various acoustic and distorted guitars, tempo shifts and vocals are all well integrated, and feel like they're telling a clear story, but they don't really add up to something I want to revisit. I also found the cover image, band name and lyrical ingredient to contrast a bit widely. There is passion and pain here, a stirring of emotions, but 'deadly carnage' seems about as fit as 'rotting christ' to that Greek band's later works. But this is a minor gripe for an album upon which the drummer plays a solo with his hands ("Ceneri"). Ultimately, I might laud the Italians for their stylistic hybrid, and their unique, strangely uplifting prose, but I didn't come out of the album heavily impressed by the actual songs.
Verdict: Indifference [6.75/10] (touch the ground, it's wet)