I, like a lot of you, I’m sure, have an uncanny, savant-like memory of where I was and, more often than not, what mischief I was up to when I first heard a particularly evocative album. I remember, clearly, being 17 and hearing Rust In Peace for the first time and how I sat open mouthed as “Tornado of Souls” bombarded me with the sonic equivalent of Gamma rays, cursed forevermore to Hulk out whenever a sweet thrash riff graced my ears. Categorically, I will never forget first hearing Bolt Thrower‘s “World Eater” whilst I sat in my friend’s room, dispatching copious amounts of cheap beer, and wondering if it was medically possible for my spine to re-calcify after the track’s locomotive thunder-riffs had liquefied it beyond matter. As it goes, it was sheer chance that the promo for American outfit Curse of Denial – formed from the husk of Descend – so happened to land in my possession. I would find myself sitting in a bar attempting to parse the first couple of tracks of debut, The 13th Sign, though to little avail, and eventually jumping to the conclusion that I was going to have to review a whole lot of average. It turns out, I was a whole lot of wrong and, I suspect not entirely unrelated, a whole lot of drunk.

The 13th Sign is, ostensibly, a death metal record, although in reality, the band play a heavily thrash influenced, melodic black/death hybrid. Opener “Ophiuchus the Winding Serpent” is a straight melodic black metal track, complete with retched vocals and tremolo verses, whereas “Pawns in Chess,” one of the record’s more riff-mongering cuts, features modern Testament rhythms, accented with a clear love of Dissection, all forged through a basic death sensibility. It’s difficult for any of those words to form a sentence that could be taken at all negatively, but it does somewhat represent a common theme on the album. As we stumble to The 13th Sign’s halfway point, its already been a sojourn through a multi-faceted landscape, although a pervasive black metal snow blankets everything in sight, despite the classic death/thrash and, occasionally, doom riffs attempting to disturb the frost.

Considering the mercurial nature of the genre splicing in the material, an overwhelming sense of polish resounds by the side of each track. “Night Terrors” hooks in quickly with its infinitely memorable thrash verses and shout-along chorus, whereas “Aphotic Zone” conjures mournful doom melodies and lusciously affected environs. Tracks like these have such a complete presence, which only hints at the intrinsic skill of the band. Requiring particular mention is guitarist Jeremy McLellon; his lead work is exceptional and serves to raise the material well and truly above the middle ground. His wailing arpeggios dance between Schuldiner-esque acrobatics and a more foreboding Jon Nodtveidt style, and, more often than not, serve as the real spine of the material. Black metal “Malthusian Nightmare,” features a huge solo with, of all people, Dimebag Darrell’s signature all over it. If that isn’t diverse, I don’t know what is.

The strength of the album does undoubtedly lie in the incendiary leads, but the band’s penchant to represent a diversity inside what can be a fairly limiting genre, acts as a particularly vorpal double-edged sword. “Haven For the Dispossessed” toys around with groove patterns and almost brandishes a tough guy swagger in its riffing, with vocalist Rob Molzan adopting a lower death growl than on previous tracks.  “Curse of Izabel” undulates with an eastern rhythm that, although stripped back, wouldn’t be out of place on any Nile release, and, individually, is a great song. But the album’s occasional capacity to vacillate between styles can be a little disjointed, perhaps lacking a sense of cohesion at times, especially when the material is considered as a whole. Molzan’s schizophrenic approach to vocals sometimes exacerbates the issue, as he leaps back and forth between an effective rasp and a perfunctory deeper growl for the record’s more obviously brutal moments.

The 13th Sign is a fantastic offering, graced with ravenous fret-work and a warm, slick production to further grease the wheels. Since coming into my beer-addled grip, Curse of Denial have rocketed up my list of “ones to watch” and, minor quibbles aside – which almost certainly won’t be present come the follow up – have crafted a boundlessly re-playable album… and isn’t that the point? Don’t miss out.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Redefining Darkness Records
Websites: redefiningdarknessrecords.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/curseofdenial
Releases Worldwide: February 3rd, 2017

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    I love good-value-for-money albums because I am a cheap bastard with a penchant for swindling money from myself via useless things I never use and crappy band merch. This sounds like a fun time so far.

  • AgonMcDuck

    “Tornado of Souls” is such a fucking great song.

    Also, any review that mentions Dissection will easily have me intrigued. I headed over to their Bandcamp and checked out the two songs they had there and the embedded one here is a bit weird in comparison. I think I like the less br00tal tracks currently available on Bandcamp better. Will check out the rest of the album when it releases later.

    • gus rodrigues

      Rust in Peace is one of the greats, no doubt about it. The opening duo is immense even today! And Tornado of Souls is Megadeth at its best. Coming back to the review: excellent btw! Will listen to it once I get back home.

  • Westpaceagle

    Ferrous Beuller is delivering some top notch reviews. Is he still considered a newby? He deserves an extra 15 min outside the AMG dungeon for this one.

    • No extra yard time but we may give him an extra portion of gruel.

      • Westpaceagle

        Mmmm…delicious gruel…

        • It even has a raisin.

          • Monsterth Goatom

            It’s good to see he’s no longer on his earlier ration of gruel with half a raisin.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            It is a dead fly and you’re calling it a raisin, right?

      • Ferrous Beuller

        My gruelshake brings all the boys to the yard…

  • Eli Valcik

    Bolt Thrower and Dissection? I don’t think it is possible for me not to give this album a shot.

  • Reese Burns

    This might not be the right spot for it, but Pallbearer just put up a new split release available TODAY ONLY called “No Peace”. Available on Bandcamp only, all proceeds are going to the American Civil Liberties Union. Just wanted to let as many people as possible know.

    • WhamBamSam

      Link? I can’t seem to find it with a google search. I’ve been buying a bunch of stuff off bandcamp today anyway since they’re donating their regular cut to the ACLU, and Pallbearer are on my list of bands to try getting into at some point. No time like the present.

      • Reese Burns

        I was just looking on their page and it doesn’t seem to be there yet. Their Instagram page (@pallbearerdoom) has details on it. And if you’re getting into Pallbearer, I’d definitely recommend picking up Foundations of Burden as well, excellent stuff. Sorry I couldn’t be more help, though

  • Jason

    I am intrigued and want to hear more.

  • ElectricEye

    Singer sounds like Nathan Explosion.

  • DrewMusic

    Oh, the feels. That opening line threw me right back to high school. The year was 2000-something, and the world was collectively blowing itself a la Breaking Benjamin, Disturbed, et al. Young Drewcifer, however, only liked 90s alt rock at that time; I apologize for nothing, I thought Goo Goo Dolls were the pinnacle of music and that those guys in Fuel were too heavy for me, and stuck to my quiet shiyit.
    Then one day, I’m waiting for Black Balloon by GGD to play, and this fucker starts a song with those now immortal words of wisdom: “uh WA AH-AH-AH.” I’m disgusted, but I let it tire itself out as background noise, enduring only that I may be blessed with GGD for mine struggle.
    Wrong. Before the ‘song’ ended, mi madre walked by and got all worried-like, visions of ritual sacrifices and church burnings plaguing her mind, and she confiscated my radio and told me I could not buy music unsupervised from there on out.
    Fuuuuuuck that. Again, I had zero love for metal at that time, but I’ve always had a lot of love for not being told what to do, and drastic actions needed to be taken. The next time I was in town and unfettered by matriarchal restraints, I grabbed the first ‘scary looking’ CD I could find and became its owner. I took this new, reaper-adorned album home, hid my CD player under my pillow, and upon nightfall I nervously allowed Children of Bodom to obliterate my metal hymen.
    It was sooo loud and frenetic to me, the most vile, seething music I’d ever heard, and I can’t claim to have enjoyed Hate Crew Deathroll upon first listen, but the first steps into the abyss were irrevocably taken, and I have never forgotten or looked back, simply wandered further into the dark. The journey is often rocky and ever-changing, but I for one am beyond thankful for metal and its many roles in my life.
    Thanks for the review and nostalgia, metal is a huge part of my life and AMG.com is like Sunday school for me, I come here to learn and you goons never disappoint.
    Blessed be, the Dark Arts!

    • DrewMusic

      Before anyone jumps down my throat for the failed reference at the end (supposed to be ‘Grim Arts,’ not Dark) I forgive myself, I literally got into Satanic Warmaster this morning, courtesy one of the many metal minded minions meandering amongst this… comment section? No more M’s but you get the gist.

  • Huck N’ Roll

    Nice job, Ferrous!

  • sir_c

    First I read the track name as Prawns in cheese, which seemed an odd BM song title. Then, having a mentioning of both Dissection and Bolt Thrower in one review did pique my interest. Thanks for this well written review, gonna check this one out!

  • SegaGenitals

    Great guitar work, vocals, and production. The drumming is horrible and nearly ruins the album.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    That video is truly a disturbing thing…