Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ancient Crypts - Devoured by Serpents DEMO (2013)

Devoured by Serpents is a demo being issued through the Iron Bonehead imprint, which has had a pretty cracking roster of late, and if you've any awareness of the sounds they release, you'll know that this is very likely an exercise in classic extreme metal purity. That is both Ancient Crypts' strength and weakness, of course, for while the material here really excels in terms of presentation and production, it does fall behind when it comes to sounding even remotely unique. Some diehards on the hunt for vintage death metal are naturally not going to have a problem with that, but ultimately I found the riffs here just too commonplace and uninteresting to evoke the same level of excitement that I had for the crushing mix the Chileans manifest into my headphones. I'll be frank: this demo sounds fantastic in terms of the vocals and guitar tone, and that alone will generate some buzz, but the songs themselves are almost entirely bereft of individual ideas and memorable chord progressions.

The arrangement of the riffs here is pure worship of groups like Asphyx, Autopsy and Incantation, that last one shining through when the band picks up the pace and the tremolo patterns and squeals seem as if they're about to rupture your innards. A few sequences, like the intro to "Deep into the Ancient Crypts" slog along at a Sabbath-inspired death/doom gait, but these are exceptions, since much of the picking here is straight mid speed tremolo stuff that relies heavy on the thick accents brought about by the pulverizing, awesome guitar tone. Atmosphere is solely derived from the interchange of rhythm guitars and occasion effects or hints of evil melody that permeate the bulkier guitars, but unfortunately the riffing patterns themselves are nowhere near exceptional, the sorts of things that after about 25+ years of death metal you'd figure someone might just discard when in the writing phase. Tried and true, sure, and that's where a lot of this new old school death metal revival is beginning to fail, but they remind me of what I always sort of missed about Asphyx over most of their career: bland death metal 101 riffing that lacks either the devouring horror or surgical savvy that I so respected from the bands I loved in the late 80s/early 90s (don't get me wrong, I liked that band, just nowhere as much as the younger crowd seems to retro-worship it now).

Anyway, I can't be too harsh on Ancient Crypts, because though they might lack that originality I'm so craving from such a heavily over-saturated field of archaic aspirants, they compensate with just the weight of those guitars, comparable to modern material from their heroes. The passion and enthusiasm of this duo also bleeds straight through the music into the listener. You can just imagine them smiling as they come up with this thick, churning, juicy material, clotted blood guitars and perfectly balanced drumming that takes turns between morbid grooves and ancient blast-work. The vocals are straight Martin van Drunen for the most part, with a few hints of Reifert's zeal or Schuldiner's rasped higher end, but once again, I'm pretty sure that if you enjoy records like The Rack, Consuming Impulse, Mental Funeral, Slowly We Rot and Scream Bloody Gore, you'll feel satisfied with the similarity. In the end, though, I just couldn't come away from this with anything more than a comfort that the past is alive, the subterranean gods had been acknowledged and received their latest sacrifices, and a hope that once Ancient Crypts enter the full-length debut phase, they'll expand outwards and screw around with some more varied riffing, throw in some dissonance and weave in a few more sinister melodies.

Verdict: Indifference [6.25/10]

No comments: