Written by Kep
Casket Grinder – Sepulchral Trip
> Death metal
> Releasing October 31
> Awakening Records
If the last few years in metal have taught us anything, it’s that there’s still a huge market for good old straight ahead death metal. The list of bands taking the stylings of classics like Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Grave, and Immolation as inspiration for kickass albums that worship without aping is as long as Ross Dolan’s flowing locks. Undeath, Hyperdontia, Phobophilic, Witch Vomit et al. aren’t reinventing the wheel; what they do is play tunes that immediately connect with audiences because of that element of familiarity, and they do it in a fun, intelligent, and technically proficient way that feels both fresh and nostalgic at the same time. Casket Grinder fits right into this mold: straight ahead death, pulled from the 90s but made for the 2020s.
This was a real wild card listen for me when I pulled it from the promo pile, as I’d never heard of the Colombian four-piece before despite their having released a debut LP called Fall into Dementia back in 2020 that was decently well-received in the parts of the community that it reached. Sepulchral Trip is a bit of a gamble for Casket Grinder, as it’s almost entirely made up of re-recorded songs written before that debut LP: of this record’s twelve tracks, four are pulled from their 2016 EP Trip to Oblivion and six from a 2016 split called Sepulcro Eterno. The band swings for the fences, adding a new track and a cover to their old songs’ spiffy new production for a 49-minute runtime, and (my apologies for the egregiously American sports idiom) while they don’t have home run power, I’d call this record a good stand-up double.
The first stretch of Sepulchral Trip is extremely strong, starting with some good old Cannibal Corpse gore worship on excellent opener “Cannibal Obsession”. There’s some fun semi-militaristic stuff from the snare in the intro section before the track breaks into full-bore crushing death, and a slower section in the middle features one of the more lyrical of many impressive solos from guitarists Christian Quintero and Daniel Pineda. Subsequent songs “Wheels of Convulsion” and “Pestilent Casket” don’t relent, showcasing some particularly brutal hammering on the latter that feels like laying beneath a concrete slab while someone jackhammers the other side of it. Then come “Stillborn Abomination”—my pick for best on the record—and “The Happening”, which feel a little more spacious and channel bits of Individual Thought Patterns-era Death with their more obtuse lines and rhythmic play.
There are plenty of killer moments in “Celestial Devourment”—a particularly gnarly authentically-OSDM riff stuck right in the middle the most notable of them—and “Conjuring Chaos” (that fuckin’ BASS, good lord), and ripper “Repulsive Rebirth” is a great bridge to the album’s final stretch, but that’s where Casket Grinder loses the path a bit. Narrative track “From the Abyss it Came” does some cool things, like angular eldritch riffage and contrasting gallops in the opening section that would make Dave Davidson proud, but it also gets a bit repetitive once the vocals are in verse mode. The Korn-esque drum and bass opening to “D-IX” kinda rocks if I’m being honest; too bad it’s followed by some pretty tired thrash-infused riffing and one of the least inspired solos on the record. “Acid Storm”, the sole new song, and a cover of Pestilence’s “Suspended Animation” close things out, and both are headscratchers. The former isn’t boring, but its deliberately chugging pace isn’t particularly compelling, and the Pestilence cover is good shit but uses entirely different (and obviously cheaper) production from the other 11 songs.
Speaking of production, it’s stellar across the board on every other track. This is that extremely satisfying modern death metal sound, where all of the instruments are clearly heard but have plenty of grit and heft. Juan Diego Acevedo’s killer bass lines shine when they should, Pineda’s bestial vocals aren’t forced too far to the front of the mix, and the tones from both the guitars and Jeisson Gallego’s drums are big and meaty enough to bowl you over. This is a record that sounds substantial and hard-hitting at almost every turn. It’s a real shame about that album closer, which could’ve just been left off entirely; its noticeably cheaper and messier sound just leaves you wondering why it’s there at all, especially since the runtime is already robust without it.
We’re living in a death metal renaissance, but that doesn’t mean all of it is good. I’ve listened to plenty of albums this year that lost my interest before getting halfway through. Casket Grinder’s songwriting and technical ability is more than enough to make sure that doesn’t become the case here, and the guitars’ several Schuldiner-inspired riffs and solos in particular will keep listeners engaged throughout. Even the least impressive songs on the album aren’t bad tracks so much as they are simply unpolished versions of the same stuff you can hear in the record’s stronger stretches. A little more editing of their songs and the overall tracklist and they could have had a real powerhouse record on their hands; as it stands Sepulchral Trip is just pretty good instead of exceptional.
THE BOTTOM LINE
In the new wave of old school-inspired death metal bands, Casket Grinder’s particular brand of riffs and brutality is strong enough to demand your attention. Sepulchral Trip isn’t in the upper echelon of its subgenre’s 2022 releases, but it’s got more than enough going for it to be worth your time. I’ll be keeping my eye on these guys going forward.