Strange, what albums take their time to grow. Long, complex albums are in the majority in this particular aspect of music appreciation, but it can happen just as easily with a short and simple set of songs. In the former case, it stands to reason that an 80-minute avant-garde jazz fusion progressive alternative black metal album from Kuala Lumpur will take time to digest, because there are fewer familiar elements to draw from and you keep bending your expectations to try and find the right frame of mind. But why are some easily digestible records birds of the same feather? Is it a matter of subverted expectations, or is it a sonic Stockholm syndrome? As a case study, we will look to Death Always Wins, the sophomore death-thrash album by unsigned Canuck quartet Dead Asylum.

My first thoughts after I hit play on Death Always Wins weren’t the kindest ones. I associated the hoarse, hollow growls and hysteric screams (shared between Mike Lister and Roger Mowat) with deathcore at first, not a genre I particularly care for. The screams especially sound too strangled to truly impress. The kick-drums had a shallow, triggered quality that put me off, and compositionally it seemed energetic but messy. I wrote it off as fun but flawed, another drop in the ocean of mediocrity.

Yet several spins in, I found myself enjoying Death Always Wins against all odds. The initially unsatisfactory growls pack a Kataklysmic punch, and thanks to the shared duties there is great versatility in their approach. I finally grasped the patterns in what I perceived to be a messy composition, and realized that Dead Asylum don’t adhere to cut-and-dry structures; who has time for those when there are ribcages to be dropkicked? The drums… Well, I’m still not the biggest fan of the kick-drums’ sound, but they do allow for great machine-gun style blasting, and Samantha Landa does a beastly job on the skins.

The secret ingredient here is more groove than a vinyl pressing plant. The album opens strong with the energetic “Defiance” and the bludgeoning title track, but “Bury the Living” is the pudding containing the most proof, leaping from a steady pummel onto a neck-breaking riff that gets squeezed for all its worth and burrows into your brain like a ravenous botfly larva. “Forgotten Sacrifice” follows right up with a blistering steamroller from the class of Decapitated. A short lull in the track is easily forgiven when Eric Morrison takes a leaflet from Alex Skolnick (Testament) and rips through a quick but excellent solo.

Though none of the 8 tracks can be called weak, “Between Me and the Grave” is the most forgettable composition, lacking the catchiness that makes the other songs so attractive. Harder to pin down is the closer “Inmate 666.” It’s a strange song that differs completely from the other material. The band goes into overdrive through all the verses, but none more than the vocals, which spit at such a high speed I half expected it to be a cover of a hardcore punk song. I still haven’t made up my mind about how much I like the track, but it’s a much more interesting way to close an album than an 8-minute epic or tepid instrumental.

Another compliment must be extended to the production job on Death Always Wins. Aside from the debatable drum issue, the album sounds sharp and clear with a lot of punch for maximum impact. While a bit more bass would have been welcome, I can only commend the mastering choices of the band. With the sound so easy on the ears and the compact 30-minute running time, Death invites being spun again as soon as it ends.

I resisted Death Always Wins at first. Its ass-kicking energy didn’t land with me, for reasons I can no longer fathom. But there is no resisting such great, pummeling death-thrash. The groove will snap necks clean in half and the riffs don’t leave your head for hours. With no label to lean on and only a few years of experience, these Canadians offer no apologies. Dead Asylum have a winner on their hands. Record companies, better take note.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-released
Websites: deadasylum.bandcamp.com | thedeadasylum.com | facebook.com/deadasylum
Releases Worldwide: June 2nd, 2017

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  • Sean Sky

    Chick should have worn a fake beard for the band photo

  • VikingSchism

    The video for that embedded track was certainly something, being fed your own grated-off flesh does not seem like a fun night in

  • Planex

    I always guesd the genre when I see the cover. I wasn’t sure between death and thrash this time.

    • GardensTale

      There was a Hammerfall album that looks like industrial nu-metal. It’s weird when that happens.

      • Reese Burns

        There was some band… More-Bid Angle or something like that, they had an industrial nu metal album with a cover that looked like a death metal record!

  • Jason

    I like the embedded track. I’ll have to check out the rest of the album and maybe add it to my bandcamp wishlist.

  • rumour_control

    My lifelong curse: “energetic but messy”

  • Drew Music

    It’s (finally) getting too nice in Maine for black metal all the time, I needed this. Excellent find, thanks for pushing past your initial impressions to give a fair and solid review.

    • herrschobel

      oh sweet Maine…is it as dark and twisted as King suggests ????

      • Drew Music

        Derry is pretty accurate for central-ish Maine, although the only real monsters here are LePaige and heroin. Parts of it are actually pretty glorious, all foresty and whatnot.

        • GardensTale

          He does describe the nature as quite pretty in a few of his novels, like Song of Susannah

          • Drew Music

            Absolutely. Also, kudos for the Song reference, it’s nice to hear of King fans beyond It and Carrie. Collectively, the Dark Tower series is his best work in my opinion. Wizard and Glass is my favorite book of any, ever, but that whole series is just stellar. And yes, our more untouched regions are downright beautiful. Baxter State Park is undoubtedly my favorite place on the planet.

          • GardensTale

            I absolutely agree, The Dark Tower is fantastic, particularly the first 4 books. The battle against Blaine has to be my favorite scene from the series, truly brilliantly written. The last 3 were great as well, but Wolves was a little bit slow and Song had a bit of a ‘middle child’ feel. Still, it’s a great read. How are you on the upcoming movie? I’ve let go of the gripes about casting and not seeing the books recreated, and right now I’m in the mindset of “It’s a complete recreation, I’ll just view it as something new that’s loosely based on and hope for the best”

          • Drew Music

            I’m sure I won’t be able to avoid seeing the movie forever, but currently that is my intention. I was concerned when I saw that the lead actress’s character was non-canon, then outright disgusted when I read that this take was to an imagining of a separate trip. I’ve been waiting pretty much all of my life for a proper Dark Tower movie series, I can see the appeal to some people but this is not what I wanted, never in life.
            Woe, Discordia.

      • Tofu muncher

        yeah, Gerald’s Game gave me the willies

  • metalcasket

    This actually sounds really focused to me, especially when compared to that Wrath of Belial album that came out a couple of weeks ago. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

    • GardensTale

      It does to me now, too. I think the dichotomy between the fairly straightforward riffing but non-adherence to a traditional verse-chorus structure threw me off at first. This album takes no prisoners.

  • Brent Johnson

    Better guitar theatrics then Lorna Shore and Fit For An Autopsy.

    • Kronos

      That’s a bold claim. That being said I haven’t heard the new LS yet. Shame on me.

      • Brent Johnson

        Nothing against those bands but I find myself tuning out after a few songs.

  • S Mahan

    Spotify has the whole album… It’s really good. Checked out their Bandcamp page, the CD (shipped to the USA) is a hell of a bargain… $10.42

    • Apple Tree

      Ive noticed that about many canadian bands. They tend to have really cheap cd’s and shipping to US

  • jetblindracos

    I like the drumming and guitars for sure.

  • Apple Tree

    I really hope exist’s new album, “so true, so bound” gets reviewed. The tracks so far released on bandcamp are sick as hell

  • METAL OTTER

    I want to hear more about the 80-minute avant-garde jazz fusion progressive alternative black metal album from Kuala Lumpur.

    • GardensTale

      Alas, I made it up on the fly. Kuala Lumpur only has 27 black metal bands according to Metal Archives, and none of them are avant-garde. Maybe you can move there and start one?

      • METAL OTTER

        Darn! I already had my wallet out…

  • Ondřej Hanus

    I generally like female drummers just out of principle, but this one is really good! Even on the kick-drums, IMO.
    Also, Stockholm snydrome should be called Gothenburg syndrom in case of melodeath.

  • herrschobel

    the growl sounds quite forced IMO … not enough whisky and tobaco i guess…and that videö….baby jesus….jaja the world is a dark and twisted place but cmon…live a little !

    • GardensTale

      Are you really calling out a metal video for being too dark thematically? Because there’s so much worse than this

      • herrschobel

        i actually do. and not because its dark but because it´s dark in the most boring shitty way possible ….its one boring cliché after another. a cheap Hostel remake…and i hated that nihilistic piece of crap in the first place…. So if you wanna do dark do it right. see Inland Empire, see Begotten see Argento … i make a living of producing good Moving Image so crap like this makes we angry…no visual poetry just dumb shit filmed with a nice camera…rrrrrrrrrrrr….but its as fake and tired as the music…so it´s quite fitting i guess…;-)

        • GardensTale

          Eh, that’s fair I guess (although obviously we disagree about the music because you’re wrong). I don’t watch a lot of metal videos because oftentimes the better the music is, the shittier the video. See also: Iron Maiden. It’s not a real rule of thumb but there’s a LOT of shit videos around.

          • herrschobel

            ah i am wrong often so that’s fine :-) … still i am missing the grit and dirt and all that…i like my death metal a lot more rough around the edges … i am glad you like it though

  • Jeremy Freeman

    Offensive video, but at least the singer imitates Randy Blythe quite well.

  • Tofu muncher

    Reading all the comments, I decided not to watch the embedded track. I so hate gore porn. The music is much to my liking, though (been listening to it on iTunes). Great write up m/

  • h_f_m

    Holy fuck cheese grater…. I cringed.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    I thought the album being reviewed was an 80-minute avant-garde jazz fusion progressive alternative black metal album from Kuala Lumpur.