I’ve always found the crude, no-fucks-given approach of Australian blackened death band Sadistik Exekution quite endearing. With their sloppy live performances, reports that their founding guitarist lived in a Sydney dungeon, and insistence on spelling ‘fuck’ with two ‘k’s (a tendency I’ve often found myself adopting in drunken text messages), everything about the band is appealing in the same way as a B-grade 80s horror movie: extremity for the sake of extremity, with an underlying camp nurtured by splatter-happy nastiness and an utter lack of technical aptitude. It was in search of other groups with this aesthetic that I decided to check out Aussie duo Decrepit Soul’s sophomore LP The Coming of War!!, whose double exclamation points and militarized orc cover art led me to believe I was in for a chuckle-worthy but similarly low-brow extravaganza. What I got was quite the surprise.
Formed in 2008 by Kakorot of Altars of Sin, Soul released debut album Uncreated and Eternal last year after a split with Scarifier and a string of demos. While Eternal was solid, War is the follow-up record that will almost certainly eclipse their past work, tearing right through sonic confines and resulting in one of the best black-death records I’ve heard in recent years. Imagine if Abominator and Blasphemy got together and wrote the greatest album they possibly could without adding radical new elements to their sound, and you’re on the right track. Barbaric wrath is here in full nuclear force: buzzy blowtorch riffs, low-register tremolos, raw blasty drumming, and Destruktor-style, sewer monster roars coupled with delightfully gurgly shrieks.
What sets Soul apart, however, is their ability to fashion these elements into wholly enjoyable, distinct songs that are rife with memorable moments and exciting tempo shifts. Take opener “Awaken,” whose fairly typical first minutes are followed by a terrifically massive, Blasphemy style crawl which feels heavy enough to break the goddamn Richter scale. Follow-up “Feral Howling Winds” begins with slower, surging guitars that burst into more unrefined blasting, before delving into an awesome mid-paced romp introduced by what could be death metal’s version of the Amen Break. Later songs are even better – “Piscatorial Death” features the coolest opening buildup I’ve heard this year, with a steady ambling bassline and slamming BOOM-BANG chords at the end of each measure; while the title track goes from swooping Gospel of the Horns riffs into a full ‘fuckk yeah!’ beat shift (it probably doesn’t hurt that drummer ‘Marcus Hellcunt’ is a former Horns member).
But while Hellcunt’s performance oozes with spunk (couldn’t resist), Kakorot’s riffage is no slouch either. Between its doom-death opening and the dragged-out notes of the conclusion, album highlight “Perished in Flames” features a monstrous riff that exudes power and earns my personal Riff o’ the Month award. Closer “Storm of Steel” begins with a melody eerily reminiscent of Resident Evil pause screen music, before treating us to a uranium-induced whirlwind of churning Infernal War urgency, hammering nailgun thrash, and a doomy conclusion underlaid by a fat bassline and samples of machineguns firing along with what sounds like a collapsing building.
It helps that nothing’s lost in the murk. In fact, War’s production is impeccable for this style – about as roomy as it can be without sacrificing force, with warm guitars that are filthy yet wholly discernible, and a snare that bursts with a resonant pop during the down-tempo dirges and perfectly captures the natural, clenched-teeth insanity of the blastbeats. Really, the only downside to War is that Soul are hardly coloring outside the lines. The faster portions can feel a bit rote at times, with “Black Goat Breath” – while still a good song – feeling the most nondescript of the bunch.
Fortunately, at seven tracks and just under 30 minutes in length, Soul understand brevity and variety are the keys to a great album in this subgenre. Nothing overstays its welcome, and the constant onslaught of explosive moments make War feel like a smoldering powderkeg – at any moment you never know whether it’s going to explode or just keep crackling, but there’s always something exciting just seconds away. While this album will hardly affect you in a profoundly philosophical way, at year’s end I imagine I’ll look back and remember The Coming of War!! as one of the most fun listens I had in 2016. That itch to rate it even higher is certainly indicative of something.