Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cerekloth - In the Midst of Life We Are in Death (2013)

Though Denmark has never had its shortage of death metal acts through the decades, there's never been a 'unified' sound as you might find from other prevalent scenes like Sweden, Florida, Finland or California during their respective primes. For example, Panzerchrist doesn't sound like Undergang doesn't sound like Exmortem doesn't sound like Invocator. To this we now add Cerekloth, a group comprised of scene veterans across numerous genres, playing a distinct and refreshing brand of old school death metal with a twist. They've been kicking around for a few years now, and I recall hearing their 2011 EP Halo of Syringes (the title track of which is present here), but not until this full-length debut could I count myself among the impressed...

At its core, In the Midst of Life We Are in Death is rooted in late 80s/early 90s US death metal cults like Autopsy, Cianide, or even the first Death and Obituary albums. Slow, cautiously syncopated drums and tremolo picked guitars are contrasted against brooding chord progressions which often cross over fully into doom/death territory. The ominous growls of Jens B. Pedersen (also of Victimizer and numerous other projects) have a hint of a Reifert or Schuldiner to them, but he varies up the deeper, echoed guttural tones with some snarls and mid-ranged, throat tearing intonations that provide a decent degree of variation, where so many other retro death front men simply gurgle away at the same, monotonous register. But what truly sets Cerekloth apart from a lot of the other would-be nostalgia inducers is the subliminal and welcome use of melody. From jangling, wistful guitars ("Praeludium") that evoke Neurosis or recent Ulcerate against a Western sunset, to cerebral spikes of tremolo escalation ("Within the Hollow Crown"), even a few cleaner picked lines against the crushing chords deep in "The Reaper Instant is Our Eternity" which reminded me of the 28 Days Later soundtrack...

In other words, there is always something drawing the ear away from any potential ennui at the largely slug like pace of the songwriting. Cerekloth takes its time with the listener, and a few of the songs hit the seven minute, but without become grossly over-extended or exerted. A few blasted bursts (in "When Outcasts Become Kings", for example) also help to break up the steady, roiling feel of the record, but in general these guys are creating a very steady sort of dementia that plays upon the horrors of the listener's mind. To this they add their melancholic melodic lines, decently crafted leads, and a polished level of production which helps each instrument ring clear of the rest. The result is a debut which is both instantly catchy in spots and hypnotic, wasting none of its 38 minutes on woeful filler. Not all the rhythm guitar riffs or vocal lines feel refined and compelling, but the flexible fills and surprises lurking in the compositions offer some level of compensation. Always, though, the album feels like carefully plotted depression, with all the certainty of a cemetery glaring at the terminally ill, stretching its gates with a welcome embrace. Cool album. Chilling, even.

Verdict: Win [8/10]

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