In what is sure to be a heart-stopping shock to readers, I’m embarking upon a mid-length review of a brutal death metal album from Italy that I’m not terribly fond of. Gasp and swoon though you may, if you survey recent examples of Italian brutal death metal reviewed in this august publication, the Kronos name is not too thick in the ground, and that’s intentional. I’m a devout opponent of the style of brutal death pioneered by Hour of Penance and copied by so many of their Mediterranean peers and do my best to avoid reviewing death bands who play in the style simply because it’s a lose-lose situation; the band’s fans get angry and I have to listen to eight hours of blastbeats and shitty riffing before slapping a 2.0 on the album and gently depositing it in my circular file. However, I’m happy to report that Devangelic don’t quite play Italian-style brutal death. Not that it helps.

Devangelic boast that their latest “consists of 100% pure US Brutal Death Metal mixed with unrelenting guitar riffs, dark atmospheres, intense blasting and ultra-guttural vocals,” which is an apt piece of boilerplate death metal propaganda. Think Suffocation, or if you’re really a brutal death bloodhound, Disgorge or Gorgasm without the melody. Phlegethon sounds like any other non-slam album released between 1997 and 2007 with a mangled corpse on the cover. In lieu of materials suggesting otherwise, I can confidently report that Phlegethon was recorded and written in a wet ditch in Sardinia. This is not a complaint, merely an observation, seeing as it mimics the aesthetics of American wet ditch albums by Disgorge and similar filth-purveyors but with slightly better sound. The production may be intentional, but that doesn’t make me like it.

You see, what made ditch-death appealing in the first place was that it was exciting. In the mid-to-late ’90s death metal’s underground was maturing and all of the aspects of modern brutal death were being set in place. Guttural vocals, overpowering low-end rumbles and ludicrously offensive gore imagery were the Ulcerate-isms of their day, and any metalhead worth their baggy shorts was keen to pry the newest neighbor-infuriating brutality available out of its brittle jewel case and into their Dodge Colt (these were the days before the Neon was ubiquitous second-hand (I assume; I was a toddler.)) Phlegethon has everything it needs to succeed in 1997, but twenty years later and there is enough of this music out there in this style that an album can’t stand on its aesthetic alone.

For an album that’s supposed to be about Dante’s Inferno, there’s precious little to be had in terms of the variety of punishment. I’ve probably heard and forgotten each of these riffs twice before, and I’d not be terribly surprised if you told me that the first and second halves of this album are identical. I’m at a loss to even describe the material here since the band’s own prose covers it entirely — though I take issue with the implication that this album is “atmospheric.” I don’t think ditches really have much of an ambiance.

There’s nothing terrible about Phlegethon, but that’s a pretty low bar to clear. There’s nothing very good about it either, and furthermore, there is very little “about” it in the first place. It is an utterly unremarkable entry into a style that originated at its own logical extreme. By occasionally crossing the thin border into slam (and, hopefully, self-awareness) or Incantation-worship, this album could have attitude — or at least attributes. Instead, it constrains itself to this very circumscribed and ultimately very boring style of brutal death that’s only a step away from the usual Italian death metal that I try to avoid1.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Comatose Music
Websites: devangelic.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/devangelic
Releases WorldwideOctober 27th, 2017

Show 1 footnote

  1. Mediterranean-area death metal bands who produce albums better than this are highly encouraged to send their music to [email protected] such that I can rid myself of the unsavory and likely unfair association I have between the geographical region and mediocre brutality.
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  • For a moment I thought this was the new Nekrasov.

  • Gage

    Hey now, Hour of Penance isn’t that bad. Paradogma and Sedition are quite good albums that balance melody and brutality better than their other albums.

    But you are spot on about this album.

    • Brutalist_Receptacle

      Paradogma: WOOF

    • AndySynn

      I’m actually with you on this one. Those are my go-to HoP albums in most situations.

      In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d much rather take HoP over Fleshgod at this point.

      Though I’m also leaning towards the new Hideous Divinity more than either too.

      • Ferrous Beuller

        I may (MAY) have been a tad generous with the new HD but it definitely deserved more attention than it seemed to recieve. Killer riffs.

  • Brutalist_Receptacle

    DONT HATE

    • Francesco Bordoni

      This statement just trapped my emotions in a loop and I don’t know how to get out

      Help

      • Tofu muncher

        Try: HATE A LITTLE

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    that album title font may as well be comic sans given how pussy-esque it is relative to the rest of the artwork

    • Brutalist_Receptacle

      PUSSYESQUE WOULD BE A GREAT FONT!

    • Nukenado

      It’s not as bad as th 3d band logo.

  • Francesco Bordoni

    #BloodtruthNeverForget

  • drug_genosh

    that was brutal (the review, not the music)

  • This band had an album that came out a couple/few years ago that was all the rage for a little while amongst the brutality diehards. I took that one on a trip to El Pass-o and looks like this will be the same. Quite frankly in the leadup to this album I totally had this band confused with Disentomb, who are awesome. I really thought this one was Disentomb’s new one until a little while ago.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    I went to Sardinia for my Honeymoon. Beautiful Island. I keep telling my wife she should have made some time to join me there.

  • Jaime VG

    Meat and potatoes brutal death. This album is a clear 2 or even a zero, but when you are in the mood for it, it kills. The issue is that I preffer to play those nasty Disgorge ones or the last Putridity.

  • The Akerstache

    Speaking as someone not incredibly versed in brutal death, this seems extremely unexciting. I really don’t remember much at all from the embedded track other than it had blast beats.

  • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

    I keep reading this as Drangleic and I’m like “yeah, Dark souls metal!”

    and then I’m wrong.

    • Nukenado

      Check out Soulmass.

  • Kapitein Bochelbaard

    If we’re talking Italian death metal anyway, they could’ve taken a cue or two from their brethren in Hideous Divinity on writing memorable brutal death. This just passes me by without much notice.

  • Tired Science Guy

    As someone not terribly familiar with brutal death (I prefer to hang out more in the tech and progressive death camps), the embedded track was boring. Can’t imagine what its like to listen to if this a genre yous spend a lot of time in.

  • 12tonehead

    All right my friend, here’s the thing : why waste your time reviewing
    stuff that indeed offers nothing remarkable, instead of devoting a
    little of your great talent to remarkable new music that stimulates the
    brain and makes the head bang ? You know what I’m talking about, Ulsect
    (OK, hardcorish vocals, so?), Coma Cluster Void (Not EoY quality, so?),
    Krallice’s latest album (surely you will tackle that one despite your
    dislike). I would also point out the very enjoyable new releases of
    EMBRACE THE DAWN, OBLIVION and INVERTED SERENITY, as stuff that makes
    death metal still relevant and fresh. Thanks for the great work as
    always.

    • Kronos

      This is what we get promo for.

    • sir_c

      I disagree. Just look at the comments of bad reviews. Often this leads to interesting debates or entertaining mockery when the music is realllly bad. And when some top notch band releases some very meh work of art, why can’t this be told about?
      Plus, I don’t trust sites that only have 4+ reviews. There’s just too many of them

      • 12tonehead

        The negative review here is well deserved, and informative, no question about it. My point was simply to dispute what is NOT being reviewed here, despite being -I believe- worthy of some attention. Not sure I fully grasp why… is it simply that the bands I mentioned as examples do not send promos to AMG staff?

        • Some we didn’t get promos for, which sucks.

  • I owned 2 Dodge Colt’s, a ’76 and a’ 79. Crashed the older one racing a friend of mine from the Career Center in 1989 with Lääz Rockit blasting on the stereo. Rolled It twice, drove it home. Hit a tree head on in 1991 with the other one; the motor was still running. Both accidents SOUNDED better than this album.

  • Tofu muncher

    well, the embedded track (Plagued by…)’s intro is interesting. Not to keen on the vocals, though.

  • sir_c

    There is another Italian band with a marvelous album Phlegethon and they are called Kingcrow. Especially track Evasion is a highlight, you must play it loud. Slightly different genre though :-)

  • Here’s Johnny

    Hour of Penance rule though, so what you talking about?