I keep waiting with dread for that dark day to finally find me. That day where my taste for Swedish retro death falters and I tire of the endless wave of throwback acts. As a world-renowned supporter of Swedish fish and retro death, I’ve embraced pretty much every album that crawled from the muck in the past few years. While some were clearly better than others, I’ve been more than content to ride the crusty death train with the bloodstained wheels right into the grave of the dismembered entombed. That brings us to Deadwork, the second album by Sweden’s Daemonicus. Keeping their national heritage tucked close to their black hearts, these chaps pull out every page of the Left Hand Path and Like an Everflowing Stream playbook. Yes, its 1990 all over again and you will be bludgeoned by the buzzing sound of nasty, old school, mid-tempo death. What’s more, these guys really know their stuff and execute the style like old pros. Since I eat this stuff like bacon and beer flavored gummy bears, I’m obviously digging it muchly. What truly surprises me is, in this day and age, after SO MUCH of this stuff has been regurgitated in essentially the same form, it’s somehow still viable and enjoyable. Between this album and the newest Blood Mortized, it even sounds, dare I say it, fresh and new. How the fuck is that possible? Steel Druhm knows not.
Bursting with vigor and copious nutsack, “A Dead Work of Art” is pure, old timey Swede-death. Those hulking Sunlight Studio riffs are the weapons Daemonicus wields as they properly kick your ass with well done, mid-tempo chaos that feels thick as a brick and heavy as hell. Relentless tracks like “Grandeur of Total Termination” and “Embracing Her Remains” are as Dismember-y as you could ever want. They effortlessly hit on all the classic Swedish touchstones and even throw in a bit of Gothenburg flavor at times (but less so than the latest Evocation did). The riffs tear and rend at you like poorly fed hyenas and the vocals snarl and grunt along like a graveyard choir. It’s simple, effective and exactly what you expect to hear from this style.
Things get even better with the cavorting and careening riffs in “We Feast on Your Flesh” (which has more than a little old Unleashed flavor in the riff patterns). The guitars just grab you by the throat and command respect. Though not original in the least, this is a top shelf example of the genre and why it somehow remains timeless. The extra creepy vibe and blackish riff flavor makes “The Hymn of Udo Sathia” stand out, and the oddly sing-along chorus is a weird, but fun surprise. Grinders like “From Alive to Dead Life” and “Nothing but Death” round things out with extra ponderous riffery and gut-busting death sneers
While Deadwork has some killer tracks, it can be a bit uneven. The best cuts come on the first half and things do drop a bit as it plays out. That said, only “Blood Red December MDXX” comes up completely short with an awkward style and unbecoming transitions.
Deadwork joins a long line of tasty throwbackers because of the riffs from P.O. Wester and Jorgen Persson. They unpack the borrowed Dismem-Entomb-Unleash licks and throw them unceremoniously at all who pass by. Most of their creations have a plethora of energy and aggression and they keep things hyperactive, though this isn’t the thrashiest of albums. They also impart a good amount of melody while keeping the heavy-o-meter set to “liquify.” Stefan Hagstrom has a nicely vicious snarl and sounds suitably evil and undead. As a group, they know what is expected of them and they deliver it like a pizza with extra lung meat.
The sound is a successful mix of raw and professional. The guitars are as big and menacing as they should be and there’s some danger to the music. It’s a bit less raw than the classic 90s albums, but it never veers too close to the polish and shine of modern recordings.
Completely bereft of originality, innovation and new ideas, Daemonicus is yet another proud guardian of the retro death sound. This is one of the better attempts at the style this year and Deadwork is a suitable companion piece to the new Blood Mortized. I don’t know why I keep enjoying the same album over and over again, but when it sounds like this, I can’t help. Steel Druhm is a slave to fashion and style. That album cover however, is not.