Written by Ridley
Undeath – It’s Time… To Rise from the Grave
Death metal from New York, USA
Over the last five years, OSDM has made a wild comeback. Gone are the days of every new death metal band trying to one up each other in terms of technicality or mood. Bands are now focused on fun, catchy riffs and tongue-in-cheek gore lyrics again, and we’re getting more than our fair share of absolute slapper albums in the process. Think back to the early 90’s- Bands like Cannibal Corpse and Mortician were writing slabs of sonic slasher flicks and not giving one single shit if it impressed you or not. It was about creating a mood, one where you could practically taste the days-old PBR and junk weed just by hearing one mean ass riff.
It would seem New York’s Undeath have held that philosophy close to their hearts, because It’s Time… to Rise from the Grave is the perfect encapsulation of the entire early death metal movement. Every single song on this absolute ass ripper of a sophomore album is drenched in that same sweaty sense of fun that made classics like Butchered at Birth and Cause of Death so instantly successful. Album opener “Fiend for Corpses” opens with a delicious bass fill that kicks right into a descending riff paired dizzying drums, punctuated perfectly by front man Alexander Jones’ guttural, bark-ish, but still intelligible vocal performance- one that sets a new standard at literally 2 seconds into the song. There may not be many unique death metal singers left, but Jones doesn’t give a damn- he sounds honest, as weird as that may read. My favorite vocalists have always been the ones that can make you believe that they believe every word being spat at you- and he is certainly no exception. What could make him sound better, you may ask?
That’s where we meet the rest of these gravedigging pothead metallers- Guitarists Kyle Beam and Jared Welch, bassist Tommy Wall, and drummer Matt Browning. Every last performance by these four is packed full with purpose and power, all coming from a determination to scare the shit out of you (and then lightly punch your shoulder to make you laugh), and they pull it off flawlessly. From songs like the Doom-inspired “Necrobionics” to the title track of sorts, “Rise from the Grave” and the absolutely bonkers single, “Head Splattered in Seven Ways” (which also happens to be my favorite song on this one, if I’m being honest.), Welch and Beam use their knowledge of their fretboards to craft damn near Hitchcockian levels of unnerving guitar work. Standout moments are in no short supply here either- no matter what kind of death metal you most prefer, you’ll find multiple things to love here. “Head Splattered in Seven Ways”, however, may just be the catchiest damn song on this whole obelisk of over-the-top cheese, in the most loving way possible.
Forget what you’ve been told about bass not mattering in metal- Tommy Wall has firmly said “fuck that and fuck you.” His tone is clanky and gross, and shines right next to Browning‘s incredibly tight drumming in the mix, clear as day and cutting your throat at the same time. It is genuinely wild how well these two work together. Take the intro and chorus of “Rise from the Grave” and the whole of re-recorded (?) track, “Enhancing the Dead”. There are so many grooves and fast riffs packed on top of one another here but not once are either of these two drowned out, instead Wall uses his lightning-quick picking fingers to accent the snare hits while keeping perfectly in time with the start-stop weirdness of Browning‘s kick drum playing. Wall wasn’t present on 2020’s Lesions of a Different Kind and the difference in overall feel and sense of tightness is drastically more intense thanks to his inclusion. It’s hard to imagine that album closer “Trampled Headstones” would sound quite as menacing without him giving each crack of Browning‘s snare an extra helping of rotten meat, or when he acts as the hammer bashing your head in while Beam and Welch cut your limbs off, very crudely. There is a palpable 80’s gore-exploitation film feel to this whole record, in the best possible ways. It feels like watching Evil Dead for the first time. It feels like seeing that one asshole general getting torn apart by zombies in Day of the Dead. It feels horrifying and fun at the same time. I have a very strong feeling this will be in my top 3 releases for the year, and it’s only April.
I cannot recommend this one any harder. There is not a single bad song, nor a wasted second. Every bit of space is filled with viscera and a tongue firmly affixed to a cheek. To me, this is what death metal should be. There is such a perfect blend of caveman nonsense and technical sophistication throughout that so many bands try and fail to achieve. It seems Undeath have lit the torch, and I can only hope the rest of the death metal community follows suit in writing fun music again. You can keep your Archspires and your Obscuras, I’ll keep my Undeath.
Unnatural connection to past limbs”
FFO: Impaled, Cannibal Corpse, Obituary