Down Among The Dead Men vocalist Dave Ingram has the death metal pedigree of a standard poodle with the roar of a rabid pit bull. Widely known for his work with Benediction and a brief yet destructive stint in Bolt Thrower for 2002’s excellent Honour – Valour – Pride, Ingram somehow flew under the radar with his next project, Downlord. Their Grind Trials EP and Random Dictionary of the Damned full-length sported some of the most frantic, gritty death metal of the 2000’s. It also has the distinct honor of being up there with Nokturnel‘s Nothing But Hatred (another criminally overlooked masterpiece) as one of only a handful of releases ranked by the IFADA (Intestinal Fortitude and Digestive Association*) as ‘an album most likely to give you explosive diarrhea.’ Disappointed as I was when Downlord called it a day, luckily Ingram had the good sense to align with the diabolic guitar duo of Dennis Blomberg and Rogga Johansson of Swedish death metal throwback troupe Paganizer to form Down Among The Dead Men. Their eponymous 2013 debut was a solid death metal D-beating. On Exterminate! Annihilate! Destroy!, their second platter of splatter, they even more forcibly batter the listener bloody with an amalgam of D-beat crust punk and death metal, the former comprising the most potent portion of the potion.
“Pyramids of Mars” opens the pummeling proceedings in a very fucking death metal fashion. Ingram spews some of the most guttural and deepest discharges of his career and the band comes out blasting like me in the can after a Suicide Burrito. “Deadly Assassin” is a full on crust attack, and “The Oncoming Storm,” likewise is more Discharge than death metal, and both are catchy as crabs. While many of the songs see the dick swing one genre’s way or the other as opposed to really forging the two, while the feel may differ, the death metal is never lost. “The Ambassadors of Death,” perhaps my favorite song on the album with the most ripping hooks, smacks of prototypical death metal when the fathers of the genre were first finding their feet.
Not every ditty is a triumph deluxe but none are a disaster. “Unearthly Child” showcases some tasty guitar work and a great grinding bass breakdown but, lacking a catchy chorus, the song doesn’t really stick to the ribs. The cover of Anvil‘s “Forged In Fire” struck me as an odd choice considering Ingram already gave it a go it during his tenure with Benediction on the Dark Is The Season EP, but it still slams and they sludge it up nicely, and a guest appearance by legendary growler Kam Lee (Massacre, Death, etc.) adds to the appeal. It’s the only song in this death crust Reign in Blood that goes a few seconds over three minutes, with most hailing closer to two, so even if some of the songs aren’t as tasty as others, they don’t last long enough to drag things down. Like an early Tyson fight, Down Among The Dead Men come in fast, fuck you up, and leave you on the floor bloodied and bruised.
The production is much deeper and darker than the debut, with a great audible clanging bass sound throughout. Ingram is fiercer than ever, and Blomberg and Rogga throw in the occasional Swedish death metal flair in spots like the closing of the mid-paced thumper, “Tooth and Claw.” Erik Bevenrud turns in a solid performance on drums, sounding nigh-unhinged in the blasts and laying down a bestial groove when called for. Why he is still a session drummer after two albums is beyond me. I guess it is true, men can’t commit.
In an age when many bands are pushing the envelope in technicality and extremity, it is nice to hear a good death metal album with a punkish sneer flip the bird in the face of what’s fashionable. Down Among The Dead Men aren’t here to break any walls, rather they are satisfied with a few jaws and eardrums. Like crust? Like death metal? Like Amebix and Sacrilege and Discharge and other bands that prominently featured mohawks? Dig in to this dish; the flavors are full and you will find your death and crust cravings satiated.
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Cyclone Empire Records
Websites: DownAmongTheDeadMen.Bandcamp.com | facebook.com/DownAmongTheDeadMen
Releases Worldwide: November 6th, 2015