Gorephilia. Just the word, let alone the cover, should clue you in as to what genre this release belongs to. Like most people, it’s not a term that often finds itself in my daily vocabulary, heard only by local restaurant staff when instructing them as to how to cook my fucking cow. Turns out in Finland it means grim, Morbid Angel worshiping death metal — it’s probably for the best. Gorephilia spend much of their second album Severed Monolith dishing out a brand of thick and sepulchral, yet hugely propulsive death. Much like Trey Azagthoth’s pre-Radikult genius, the record features warped riffing, dissonant leads and altogether Sandovalian drum work, and I’ve got no beef with that — the qualitative question is, are we talking shank or full blown wagyu?
The honest answer is a bit of both. Eschewing the usual occult dabbling that comes with the turf, it’s a predominantly cosmic ichor that courses through the veins of these brutes, with songs full of interplanetary menace. First up “Interplanar” hurtles through the void and into life with lashings of double bass drumming and a grim introductory roar courtesy of vocalist Nemesis. It’s to the point, to say the least, adhering to its full-throttle convictions. Drummer Kauko Kuusisalo puts in a relentless shift and reinforces the stock tremolo riffs with an urgency that permeates much of the material. “Hellfire,” another dizzying cut, flashes into life with a classy solo. I’m unsure as to which guitarist provides the leads, Jukka Aho (Krypts) or Pauli Gurko, but they tend towards the brief and tantalizing and are often awash with a distinctly classic metal personality, reminiscent of the the lead work on Autopsy‘s Severed Survival.
It’s soon fairly apparent that what we have on our hands here is an atypical death metal concept marbled with some sporadically sweet hooks and even better drumming. One of the most frustrating things about Gorephilia is their obvious ability to push the boundaries of this traditional fare and their abject reticence to do so. “Black Horns” is the first time we get any real diversity in the riff department, showing off some heavyweight grooves influenced by fellow countrymen Convulse, and the first truly appreciable slice of songcraft. Nemesis conjures some creepy whispers, until the 1:30 mark when a straight black metal riff scythes in. This is the kind of sinister, off-kilter stuff that exhibits the band’s proficiency and offers just a smattering of choice — it also works nicely in contrast to follower “The Ravenous Storm,” which opts to absolutely obliterate with the album’s nastiest riffs, full of thrash vim and vinegar.
The real champion of Severed Monolith is the production. It’s fucking inhospitable, suffocating the ears with Gorephilia‘s inter-dimensional quaking. One of the biggest issues with the album is the reliance on some decent but ultimately unimaginative riffing. This is also where the baleful production commences hiding a multitude of sins, blanketing some of the more redundant moments with an ominous presence and furnishing Nemesis’ perfunctory vocal performance with a muffled quality, setting them back in the mix so the music can do the talking. The record has an unfortunate habit of blurring together somewhat, which is incredibly frustrating in retrospect, especially as the album ends on such a high note. “Crushed Under the Weight of God” combines Gorephilia‘s apparent obsession with that most morose of angels with the catacomb crunch of New York’s Incantation for nothing less than a 10 minute epic of caustic runs and prolonged, eerie chugs, channeling Demigod level quality. How this kind of songwriting didn’t infect the entire writing process is beyond me – had it, we’d be looking at nothing short of an old school classic.
The kind of retro death metal that Gorephilia are replicating really only has limited mileage before some sort of ingenuity needs to be applied. The obvious talent lurking behind these celestial bodies is almost rudely apparent, which just serves to make Severed Monolith all the more infuriating. Having said that, if the band were to free the artistic beast and allow for some of their raw ability to guide the creative process, then I suspect a potential gem lies in wait. I’ll be keeping an eye out in the future, but for now, this is a record to fill up on, not a morsel to savor.