Ah, a band living within throwing distance of AMG’s stylish headquarters in Sweden (though with his bad knee, AMG shouldn’t be throwing anybody). When his AMGness asked me to give these local hooligans a listen [I have a policy against reviewing anyone who could figure out who I am and burn my apartment building down – AMG], I had never heard a thing about them and I doubt you have either. Not to worry though, Steel Druhm is here to care and share. Basically, Degial (formerly Degial of Embos) is a young, up-and-coming act sporting a very promising take on the blackened death sound. The members have logged time in such established bands as Watain and Shining, and as their debut Death’s Striking Wings rumbles and slithers along, you’ll hear loads of old Morbid Angel, Melechesh, Nile and Dissection influences and even some nods to old Possessed and North From Here-era Sentenced (if you never heard North From Here, shame on you! That’s some quality frigid death). There’s a good level of musicianship here, though they create a sound that’s ragged, shaky and chaotic; kind of like Motorhead jamming some Behemoth and Belphegor tunes after a long weekend in Tijuana. As these songs rocket by in a nightmarish fog of frenzied riffs, pummeling blast-beats and evil vocals, it gave me the mental impression of an oversized freight train derailing and exploding… at a nuclear test site. At their best, they create PTSD-inducing, catastrophic musical train wrecks with no survivors. However, their youth and inexperience shows through at times and this is a bit uneven in spots. It’s a helluva start though!
The swirling maelstrom of malevolence created by “Eye of the Burial Tempest” immediately warns you there’s a rough ride ahead and you would be well advised to don adult diapers and crash helmet. The hyper-speed, abusive riff-patterns twist and turn and keep coming back at you with a lot of Melechesh flavor and hints of the glory days of the Morbid Ones. As the whole thing roars over you, it starts to feel like too much to take (not unlike the last Hate Eternal opus). It’s impressive, savage and oddly addictive. Degial keeps the thumbscrews tight and the water-board wet with “Serpent’s Tide,” which features guitar flourishes lifted right off Possessed‘s Seven Churches (don’t believe me? Listen to “Burning in Hell” and send the apology email). “Swarming” has terrifying riffs that sound exactly like something awful swarming around you with ill intent. These are some of the more oppressive riffs I’ve heard in a while and the song sounds and feels like a nightmare made real. The lengthy title track brings some slower, doom-grind segments, which are a nice change from the insane blitzkriegery. There’s some Nile trademarks and a nifty “God of Emptiness” vibe woven throughout.
Despite the terrific start, things get a bit uneven on the back end. “Chaos Chant” has a lovingly authentic Altars of Madness feel to it, but lacks the flair demonstrated on the first four tracks. “Temple in the Whirling Darkness” has some tasty blackened riffs but it has a few dull segments as well. The last two songs seem like older material and have a different feel than the rest of the album (especially the surprisingly rock-based segments that surface during “Black Grave”). Neither cut really wows me and the way the album ends feels a bit dislocated from the powerhouse opening tracks.
The point of attention here is clearly the riff-o-mania of R. Mersin. He does a fine job of aping Trey Azagthoth in his riffing and solos and also manages to channel some Karl Sanders moments of saurian wizardry without making things sound like Pharaoh Boulevard, Egypt (let my people go!). I wouldn’t say he’s as talented as either of those chaps, and his style is a little more off-the-rails than either of them, but he definitely makes an impression. The vocals of H. Death run the gamut from death croaks to blackened rasps and he’s more than adequate for the job but doesn’t really standout much amid the lunacy.
The production is raw and primitive (which is good) but the mix is less than optimal. It’s a bit too soupy and the vocals tend to get buried, but I do like the buzzy guitar tone and the drum sound.
Death’s Striking Wings is a nice surprise and shows the potential these lads have in spades. If the whole album hit as hard as the first four songs, we would have a monster on our hands. Once they smooth out some kinks and develop as songwriters, they’ll certainly be a band to watch and fear. Definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re disappointed by the recent Morbid Angel and Nile output. Thanks for the tip, AMG. P.S. Don’t forget to check out North From Here! [Who, me? Jesus, man. Like I haven’t listened to that record. – AMG]