Written by Kep
>Heaving Earth – Darkness of God
>Released May 27, 2022
>via Lavadome Productions
When it comes to blasphemous death metal that reeks of evil and disgust, there’s a lot of options out there. You’ve got your classics—Morbid Angel, Deicide, Immolation, Incantation—and you’ve got several waves of new blood, including acts like Bloodbath, Dead Congregation, Aeon, and plenty of others. Christianity and the hate thereof is the gift that keeps on giving, at least when it comes to death metal, and as such it takes a lot to stand out in such a profanely crowded field, so the question in my mind when I tackled Heaving Earth’s newest record wasn’t whether or not it would be good, but if it would be worth taking note of.
The Czech foursome has been around since 2008, though not quite in this form; Darkness of God will be their first release with the current lineup, and the first time they’ve put out new music since 2015’s Denouncing the Holy Throne. The one continuous member of the band has been guitarist Tomáš Halama, and so it makes sense that there’s a common vibe to the riffs from album to album. His work on this record, though, is a quantum leap in terms of style and quality no matter how you slice it.
Denouncing and their debut Diabolical Prophecies fell pretty much in line with their clear inspiration acts like Immolation: straight-ahead death metal with a nasty edge and just enough angularity to make the riffs feel sinister. But here on Darkness of God, Halama and company have gone full dissodeath, leaning all the way into what used to be just a smaller element of their sound. There are riffs that pummel and there’s plenty of chunk, sure, but what stands out is a huge emphasis on angular lines and semi-melodic material, guitars crawling like spiders across the top of the texture, slithering like snakes at strange angles to one another to create tracks that are deviously discordant by design. I found bands like Gorguts and Ulcerate and even Replicant coming to mind as I tried to find good comparisons, though none of them fit Heaving Earth’s style even close to perfectly.
Darkness of God is a balance in aggression and thoughtful, measured evil, and from top to bottom each of the nine tracks approaches that balance a little differently. Sometimes, like in opener “Violent Gospels (Ordination of the Holy Trinity”, it’s a massive whirlwind of violence and barely contained chaos with menacingly angular tremolo-picked lines and thumping blasts that pair with a bass that rattles satisfyingly below. Others it’s a crisper, tighter package that leans on filthy pinches and sharp jabs that pierce like daggers through the texture, like in “Apologetics (Of Failure and Fall)”. For my money, though, the balance is most gratifying in tracks like “The Lord’s Lamentations” that spend time meditating with calm clean tone passages, moments like “Crossing the Great Divide (Prayer to a Crumbling Shrine)”, ominously bearing down with measured mid-tempo attacks, and “Cardinal Sin”, with earthshaking stomps built on lurching rhythms and bizarrely twanging dissonant punctuation marks.
No matter the track, though, you can be sure that what you’re getting is a baleful dissodeath product that’s fantastically performed and impeccably produced. The instruments sound nothing short of fucking stellar coming through go the speakers, and that’s courtesy of audio engineer Andrea Petucco, who’s also the frontman for avant-garde gods Ad Nauseam and produced both of their records. He never fails to capture music at its most authentic and hard-hitting, and that expertise elevates what’s already a set of unique and impressive performances. Halama and fellow guitarist Martin Meyer swirl bewilderingly against one another, sometimes breaking off to crunch violently or tremolo-pick something vicious and wicked. Tomáš Ledvina’s bass is a core element to the overall texture, audible and ever-present with deviously skeletal rattles, and vocalist Marek Štembera brings it all together in a strong turn full of enormous chesty roars and throat-shredding gutturals. Guest Giulio Galati of Hideous Divinity takes this album’s duties behind the kit and he’s as strong as ever, turning in a highly enjoyable performance by handling the off-kilter stop-and-start lurches every bit as well as the thundering blasts and everything in between.
The 49-minute runtime feels like it could’ve used a touch of tightening up; one of those cut-the-fat situations where repetition or two less in songs like “Apologetics” and a slightly less protracted approach to the solo in songs like “Crossing the Great Divide” could’ve helped the whole feel a bit more focused. It’s hard to complain much about that, though, when lengthy and shorter tracks alike contain so much great shit. The guitar solos are plentiful, a relative outlier for dissodeath in that regard, and every single one will twist your brain into knots while you try to follow the shredding contortions. Check out any of the singles for a taste—I recommend the last chunk of “Violent Gospels”. Even the bass gets in on the solo action here and there, grumbling and rollicking delightfully away, sometimes leading the way for the guitar to follow.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you like your death metal blasphemous and menacingly dissonant, you should not miss Heaving Earth’s Darkness of God under any circumstances. 2022 hasn’t yet seen a release that sounds like this: a deliciously ugly tour through the dark recesses of what death metal can be that I think many fans of extreme music will eagerly devour.