The festering stench of classic Swedish death metal is surely one of the most comforting and addictive scents in the metalverse. Try as I might to disregard the bulk of subpar bands pedaling the oversaturated style where bands are so often prone to lazily ripping off their idols with blatant plagiarism, when the words ‘old school Swedish death metal’ are thrown about I generally sit up and take notice. Unfortunately finding truly killer examples of the style worthy of standing in the shadows of Dismember, Entombed or Grave (amongst others) are few and far between. For a few years the style was slightly rejuvenated with a spike in quality retro acts, but unfortunately the old school Swedish death revivalist scene has largely returned to leaning too heavily on the side of derivation. Apparently alive and kicking out rotten old school jams since around 2007, Sweden’s Feral have released a bunch of demos, a split EP and a debut full-length prior to releasing this second platter of old school brutality, entitled Where Dead Dreams Dwell. So are Feral here to deliver a fresh take on a beloved formula?
Where Dead Dreams Dwell ticks all the boxes in the Swedeath stakes. Rusty buzzsaw guitar tone. Check. Frenzied D-beat rhythms. Check. Beastly low growls. Check. Basically all the song-writing ingredients fans have come to expect, complete with obvious influences and reference points to the classic past. And frankly it rocks pretty damn hard, taking a gnarlier and less polished approach than some of their modern peers in both production and overall execution. The plus side of bands like Feral is the sheer passion they obviously share for the style, even if they skirt dangerously close to tribute act status. And Feral certainly bring feverish energy to their bludgeoning musical chops, hacking relentlessly through the album’s ten cuts in a reasonable 43-minute run time.
Straight off the bat opener “Swallowed By Darkness” rips out an infectious opening riff that quickly settles into a thrashy, blood pumping groove. It’s a surprisingly dynamic song with a couple of standout riffs, strains of sinister melody and vaguely bluesy groove. Once the template has been established, Feral don’t deviate far from the left hand path. Despite a certain predictability present throughout the album, Feral’s raw energy and a solid supply of catchy riffs from capable guitarist Markus Lindahl goes some way towards nullifying the material’s more derivative traits. The likes of “Suffering Torment” and “The Crawler” are rollicking, catchy jams, while the hyperactive energy and hard-edged grooves of “Mass Resurrection” and speedy unchained aggression of closer “Succumb to Terror” are other noteworthy morsels.
Production-wise there are no real surprises, although the band pleasingly opts for a refreshingly raw and less varnished modern take on the vintage Sunlight Studios sound. While typically brickwalled, the sound is otherwise satisfyingly crunchy with an absolutely killer guitar tone. The song-writing doesn’t step out of the shadows of the past, unless aping other modern updates like Bloodbath and Entrails, but there’s enough substance and quality riffs to keep the album afloat, even if many of the songs tend to bleed together.
My tolerance for Swedish death metal of the old school variety has admittedly lessened in the wake of last year’s superb Horrendous album, which showed innovation could be applied to an endearingly retro sound. Instead the scene’s constant retreading and complete lack of progression is making it increasingly difficult to siphon out bands worth listening to. Nevertheless, Where Dead Dreams Dwell is a solid listen and Feral’s rawer edge and hooky riffs should garner some interest and enjoyment for avid fans of the style disappointed in the latest Entrails release.