“Listen to them, the children of Entombed. What sweet music they make!” Or something like that. There can be no denying just how ubiquitous the genre has become, but I harbor a serious love of all things Swedish death. Clearly so do Revel In Flesh, a band who have been successfully churning out body-blow Scandinavian flavored death metal for the last 5 years. The German’s fourth platter, Emissary of All Plagues continues to do exactly what it says on the tin: namely, make a big nasty noise a la Entombed, Dismember and Grave, proceeding to bludgeon you to Swede-death with it. If you’ve spent any time at all with the sound then there will be nothing new to absorb here: buzz saw guitars, dark melodicism and exhumed vocals all primed with enough D-beatery to pummel the Gothenburg out of your mewling hearts. Does Emissary of All Plagues opt for a change of tact and throw some innovation in to a primitive genre? Absolutely not. Instead, they hold true to form and show us a damn good time.
Right off the bat, it’s clear the band are going for all-out, high energy entertainment and that’s exactly what they mete out in the opening title track. Huge down-tuned riffs and vocalist Ralf “Haubersson” Hauber’s suitably gargled growls slathered all over the staple bouncy drum work. Haubersson’s vocals occasionally vacillate between traditional roars and a Peter Tagtgren infused, glass-shattering scream – although it doesn’t give the record an extra dimension as such, it does manage to inject it with some extra mileage, creating a sound more reminiscent of Tagtgren’s time with Bloodbath than Hypocrisy. Much of the album follows suit, delivering fun yet fatal riff-work layered with sinister leads ripped straight from classics (in my opinion anyway) like Cemetary‘s An Evil Shade of Grey. “Casket Ride” crunches along with reckless abandon and “Fortress of Gloom” successfully delves into doom for a quick change in tempo. Previous record Death Kult Legions featured a rendition of Manilla Road‘s “Necropolis” to varying success; Plagues ups the ante with”Doctor Doctor,” a cover of the UFO classic. Its bizarre fun, clearly not designed to be taken too seriously and all the better for it.
Most of Emissary of All Plagues blusters by without much fuss. “Torture Throne” creeps up with plenty of heady gothic overtones before it makes way for a twin guitar attack and a permanently mid-paced advance. The album matches the slower pieces with the faster cuts sensibly, pacing the 44 minute run-time. And its here we come to the biggest obstacle a release like this can face: it’s increasingly hard to write detailed reviews of albums that contain such old-school and dyed in the wool elements. If you’re reading this, then the likelihood of you never having heard at least one song by one of the acts I’ve already mentioned is about as likely as Steel revoking his Manowar cosplay membership… i.e not very. You know what this sounds like; you can probably recreate the tone in your head. The question is, is it worth your hard earned cash and infinitely valuable time? And the honest answer is: yes it is.
A couple of the tracks, “Servants of the Deathkult” and “Lords of Flesh” are perhaps less memorable when compared with some of the stronger songwriting, but, by and large, the album scythes along delivering scathing riff after riff, ever maintaining its quality throughout. The production is clear yet follows the usual HM-2 habits, sharpening the guitars and highlighting the driving percussion in the process. In this age of progression and boundary blasting, sometimes it does us good to be reminded that there are some bands still content to dole out a sound, no-frills d-beating.
Revel In Flesh are the proud perpetrators of Swedish death metal, which, in all of its limited forms, is tantamount to fairly black and white brutality. Emissary of All Plagues manages to recreate some of the energy from the genres early 90’s heyday and as a result, you will have definitely heard this before. But do yourself a favor, put down the proggy noodling for a day and hear it again, because its pretty damn good – and you already know it is.