Decaying // The Last Days of War
Rating: 3.0/5.0 — Victorious, despite the ammo shortage
Label: Hellthrasher Productions
Websites: myspace.com/decayingofficial | facebook.com/Decayingofficial?sk=wall | decayingofficial.bandcamp.com/
Release Dates: 05.20.2013
I’m not one to suggest there can ever be too much war metal, and while Bolt Thrower has ground to a halt for the time being, there are plenty of bands trying to keep the flame of strife and global conflict alive. Hail of Bullets may be the most prominent at the moment, but the recent Just Before Dawn debut is good enough to challenge them for world domination. Finland’s Decaying also have a tank in this battle, and their 2012 Encirclement album was a well done, Bolt Throw-y dose of ugly death metal with a heavy war theme and vocals that could easily pass for those of the great Martin Van Drunen (Hail of Bullets, Asphyx, ex-Bolt Thrower, ex-Pestilence etc.). Now they’re back with The Last Days of War and hoping to carve off a bigger piece of the war market. Unfortunately, though they try mightily to emulate the basic Hail of Bullets blueprint and crafted some harrowing odes to battle and death, they are once again severely let down by a weak, soft production with almost no power in the guitars (even worse than on the last album). As a result, The Last Days feels somewhat washed out, tepid and despite some good writing, it often feels about as intimidating as a paintball squad reenacting the War of 1812. Somehow (and I’m not sure how exactly), it still works and is worth checking out for all war metal afficiandos.
Though the album promo reads that Decaying focused on a more doomy sound this time around, I’m not sure I hear it. They always had a doomy vibe mixed in with the thrashier segments similar to what Hail of Bullets and Asphyx do, and they keep the same style here. Most songs mix a mid-tempo romp with the murky, ominous parts. The Hail of Bullets influence is impossible to miss on numbers like “Code Name: Overlord” where Matias Nastolin does a drop dead perfect impression of Van Drunen (seriously, it’s spooky how close they sound). His frenzied vocals elevate the song above average and because the guitars sound as mean as a kitten, his roar is the only thing keeping things truly heavy and mean. “The Ardennes Offensive” is faster and adroitly intersperses effective doom segments. “Passchendaele” (yep, another song on the topic) is the biggest “doom” track here, with loads of grim, stuck-in-the-mud riff lines and a dark feeling that complements the subject matter. Epic length closer “The Pacific” also works the doom concept in well with forlorn, unhappy leads (especially the opening riffs).
The only track that falls flat for me is “Firestorm,” which despite some nifty riffs and cool moments, is far too long at 7:30 and really should be trimmed by two or three minutes. It drags between cool moments and had me moss-gazing with the best of em (i.e. AMG). Working in the band’s favor is the relative shortness of the album at 46 minutes. This prevents the doom and crush from getting too monotonous, which at times hurt Encirclement a bit.
This material would be much less convincing without the top-notch vocals of Nastolin. He allows the band to overcome some really intrinsic errors in production and mix and his ranting and raving provides a much needed edge. The riffing and soloing from Nastolin and Henri Hirvonen is solid and frequently manages to convey the grim, gruesome feel of a battlefield and the horrors of war. If they weren’t so utterly hamstrung by the production, their work would be vastly more impressive and impactful.
Overall, a pretty solid release by a talented, but still unsung band. It kills me how weak the mix is, but you can’t put the warhorse back in the bag. It’s a testament to their writing and playing that The Last Days of War ended up this listenable, despite the pussy-willow guitar sound. All I can say is, they had best murk it up on the next album or there really will be a war!