It’s that time of year again where people are scrambling for gifts to buy people, malls to populate, and year-end lists to create. It’s also the time of year when I try to step outside of my blackened, doom-laden comfort zone and try my hand at less bleak, more visceral waters. In other words, I done burned myself out on black metal for a bit, and what better pick-me-up is there than Swedish death metal? Enter Uppsala’s Degial, who have already been given a good write-up by AMG‘s very own man-ape, Steel Druhm, back in 2012 with their debut, Death’s Striking Wings. And now I have their third album, Predator Reign, resting in my hands, and it’s just what the man-cat needed.
Opening with some feedback, growls, and screams, the title track wastes no time blasting and slicing away at your eardrums with Emil Svensson’s relentless drumming and the Krisiun-like riffing by Hampus Eriksson and Rickard Höggren. Just like on Wings, there are more than subtle nods to Morbid Angel and Nile, but they’re expertly peppered in the melodies and riffs, instead of being the whole meal. Degial has broken away from the “homage” stage, and are turning into their own frightening entity, and that’s just from the first track alone.
Thankfully, the rest of Predator Reign delivers as well. The appropriately-titled “Hellstorm” swoops in with an Azagthothian solo and bludgeoning blasts, never taking their foot off the accelerator for a moment. Closer “Clangor of Subjugation” features the album’s only atmospheric moment, containing a second half that slows down just enough to build tension sure to rally a live crowd. When Degial pulls you in, their full-frontal assault enrages with blasphemous zeal and uncompromising intensity.
But those hooks, tasty as they are, come at a bit of a price. In short, Predator Reign, while lacking in bad moments, also lacks in variety. When everything is at or around the same tempo, some unfortunate musical bleed-through occurs, causing songs to blur together a bit. Besides the three examples listed above, it was a challenge trying to find key points to latch onto to write a review for. Mind you, while it’s playing, Predator Reign hits every primal nerve square-on. The production, while murky and grotesque, also works in the band’s favor, especially in the bass department where new bassist P.J.’s rumblings can be heard and felt.
While the last paragraph may come across as a knock, I enjoyed Predator Reign‘s uncompromising death metal assault. And don’t let the “featuring live members of Watain!” tag steer you into thinking that it’s the only thing going for the band’s favor, as Predator Reign stands proudly on its own musical merits. Also, the band is still in its infancy stage. Give them an album or two, and I can see them leveling heads like the classics. One to keep an eye out for!