As a youthful cheeky-chappy, I missed death metal the first time round. The wonders of Google have permitted me to research that which I lacked, thus purging myself of the vim and vibrancy with which I was once characterized. I now regularly murder my family and desecrate their burial chambers in the name of such legends as Entombed and Dismember, a sentiment obviously shared by Stockholm’s latest recruit: Lik. Despite the clear comparisons to be drawn with their lauded Stockholm brethren, a healthy vein of Gothenburg melodeath also fuels this debut. Mass Funeral Evocation sits somewhere between Stockholm in 1990 and Gothenburg in 1995 – let’s say Linköping in 1993 – and is a supreme example of retro death metal. It greedily raids from the tombs of better-known compatriots, and it sure as shit doesn’t innovate, but it’s tough to criticize the results.
The clear focal point is the dazzling guitar work undertaken by Tomas and Nille. From the opening chords of “Serum 141” you are made aware of – read: they force themselves down your throat – the mental riffs which sit atop the mix. The Sunlight Studios tone is present and correct and it’s a striking opening to demarcate that these guys don’t fuck about. Awesome riffs invade pretty much every track, but I’ll note a few highlights. “Death Orgasmic” proves a particularly fitting title as the opening riff has a dominant groove, and that at 2:09 of “Skin Necrosis” is unbelievably awesome. The transition from “I eat myself… to death!” into the the instrumental passage is bona fide badass. The grind to begin “Behold The Beheaded” and “Sickening” diversifies the tone a little, and the tremolo-picked conclusion to “Necromancer” reinforces the godless content – “A graveyard orgy! Embrace the Necromancer!” I could go on, but take note: a tighter collection of riffs cannot be found in any other death metal I’ve heard this year.
I’ve cited several riffs without mentioning the homages to the Gothenburg sound. The galloping melody on “Le Morte Homme” invokes Maiden and tuned me into how the harmonizing guitar on a few tracks strongly recalls the way Gothenburg melodeath drew on classic metal harmonies. This track layers a groovy rhythm with heightened melodies à la In Flames. “Endless Oceans of Blood” (which has a surprisingly catchy chorus) also particularly reminds me of a specific song that I can’t place – I’ve explored all the In Flames, At The Gates and even Mors Principium Est in my collection but still it eludes me. Regardless, it’s a great song.
Lik nail the pacing and structure too. 36 minutes is a fantastic length for a death metal record, ensuring they get in, stab you in all the right places, then get out again. More than this, the awareness of their own limitations seems acute, as they develop and embellish where one aspect may be weaker. “Ghoul” probably has the most forgettable lead and intro (still a cool, arpeggio-orientated melody), but they subsequently strip back into a simpler riff before harmonizing a shredding solo with a strangled shout. I found myself trying to dislike this track the most given its opening, but I really can’t complain with how it ends. Even if the second-half wasn’t good enough, the entire track is 2:22 in length – hardly too much to bear. The concluding track, “Trail ov Entrails,” fits very well too, offering progression on what’s apparent elsewhere. The subtle intro layers echoing piano keys over the sound of rainfall (seemingly their take on “Raining Blood”) with grinding guitars gradually reaching a crescendo, before closing out with the most spacious and epic riff on the record.
Turning to the production, the mix can sound muddy and compressed as a result of the limited dynamic range. I’ll forever compare death metal production to Horrendous‘s Ecdysis and it pales in comparison to such mastery. Nonetheless, the mastering ensures the buzzing tone is plenty pleasing, as is the cleaner tone when called upon to execute the melodeath harmonies.
Lik don’t so much dip their toes into the Swedish death scene as scoop out barrels of fetid viscera, but the resulting fusion of scummy old-school death, cleaner melodeath and excellent riffcraft is hard to deny. If I was denied my daily session of snorting roadkill and was feeling grouchy, I could point out that retro death rarely matches that which they pay homage to. But Mass Funeral Evocation is a ripper and I recommend it highly to any fan of Swedeath. The titular “Evocation” is even an acknowledgement of their roots and influences in the graveyards of Stockholm. Much like Cut Up‘s release earlier this year, bump up the score if you revel in retro death.