Written by Kep
>Castrator – Defiled in Oblivion
>New York, US
>Releasing July 22
>Dark Descent Records
“Time to escape / She’ll get revenge
A life with purpose / She will now live”
Have you ever wanted to listen to something that is a) savage, b) entirely full of palpable rage, and c) makes you want to dismantle the patriarchy through acts of violent murder? Of course you have, and I’ll be goddamned if Castrator haven’t produced exactly that with Defiled in Oblivion.
The up-and-coming death metal foursome, originally an international project but now based in New York, have been mostly quiet since their first EP, No Victim, was released in 2015. There has been a bit of personnel changeover in that time, to be fair, leaving bassist Robin Mazen, also of Gruesome, and drummer Carolina Perez, also of Hypoxia, as the only remaining founding members. Guitarist Kimberly Orellana was brought on to fill a multi-year void in that space, and Tartarus’s Clarissa Badini was brought on when founding vocalist Mallika Sundaramurthy, also of Abnormality fame, departed. It’s a stacked lineup of veteran women from within the metal scene, and consequently this, their debut full-length, feels nothing like a first outing.
Castrator play an old school form of death metal with new school sensibilities and production. It’s a huge sound, with a texture that’s thick as the earth’s crust and several times heavier. The riffs skew to the chunkier side, mostly eschewing European-style melodic work for pure punishing power, which results in songs that are heavy enough to knock the air right out of your lungs. There’s the brutality of Broken Hope and Suffocation alongside the clever riff designs of Hate Eternal and Cannibal Corpse, flurries of bludgeoning gut punches alongside carving tremolo scythes, and the larger-than-life slamming grooves of Dying Fetus. Defiled in Oblivion is basically a smorgasbord made up of all the things we love about old school New York and Florida death metal, and if you dig those sounds like I do then there’s no chance you won’t thoroughly enjoy this album.
The ladies of Castrator have a damn good time with all that tasty nastiness too, leaning memorably into stomping caveman riffs and bouncy cymbal-bell grooves in tracks like opener “Dawa of Yousafzai” and lead single “Tyrant’s Verdict” that are just fun as hell. They don’t slam on every track; that would be overkill for a band this well-balanced, obviously. A massive part of the appeal here is how deftly they set up these devastating pseudo-slams, sometimes tearing through vicious passages that carve with abandon like a scalpel through tissue before grinding to a halt for a classic slam approach, other times starting with brutal pounding blows and arriving at the first cycle of a massive destructive riff without so much as a seam. Plenty of music out there is mosh-worthy, but these are stretches for murdering fools in the pit.
The production lends a hand in making Defiled in Oblivion particularly punishing as well. The overall sound is categorically gargantuan, with a delicious focus given to keeping Mazen’s bass noticeably present at all times; think of the mixing on Derek Boyer’s playing in Suffocation’s …of the Dark Light and you’re in the ballpark. Atop that foundation the battering drums and brawny guitars create a memorably full sound, and all of it together results in one of the heaviest and most brutal mixes you’ll hear this year. The riffs are fucking dense, and they kick all of the ass.
Badini’s vocals are also kept in the foreground, but not in an over-mixed or obnoxious way; the hair-raising level of unadulterated rage in her roars is the focal point of the band’s anti-misogyny thrust, and it’s treated as such. It’s violent, it’s merciless, it’s visceral, and its enormous aural presence encapsulates all the furor and ferocity of the abused and ignored women that Castrator speaks for. The album opens with a clip of from the famous United Nations speech by women’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai—“They thought that the bullet would silence us, but they failed…Weakness, fear, and hopelessness died. Strength, power, and courage was born”—and the record never once loses sight of its message of empowerment from there.
Orellana’s work on the guitar is impressive for the level of savvy she has in pulling off so many damn good takes on classic US death metal. The band brings along some star guests as well: Daniel Gonzalez of Gruesome and Possessed is credited with additional guitars across the album, while Obituary’s Kenny Andrews and Krisiun’s Moises Kolesne both lay down solos. The promo info didn’t specify which solo was performed by which guitarist, but there are multiple killer spots handled between the four. There’s plenty of shred to go around—a particularly nasty example can be found in “Voices of Evirato”, which I think is my favorite track—and a couple of awesome spots where the guitar just flails and WAILS, like at the end of “Tormented by Atrocities”.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This long-awaited debut record from Castrator is everything we expected from it: full of quality riffage, ruthlessly brutal, and seething with the flames of righteous fury. It’s a satisfying listen from top to bottom, starting with a song dedicated to a women’s rights trailblazer and ending gloriously with a scorching cover of Venom’s “Countess Bathory”. Death metal fans, there is no question: you will enjoy this one.