For those into gothic black metal of the Cradle of Filth variety, you really can’t go wrong with Elvira Madigan. This lovely one-man band was named after the Danish tightrope dancer from the 1800’s who died a tragic “Romeo-and-Juliet” death at the hands of her lover. As you can imagine, the musical direction of Elvira is sad and emotive, with layered symphonics and heart-wrenching vocals ranging from clean to Dani Filth-esque. The music is deep, it’s dense and it’s magical. But then Marcus Hammarström disbanded it in 2008 to pursue something just beyond his dark, depressing taste… What could be the opposite of Elvira Madigan, you ask? Well, that would have to be Sweden’s Sterbhaus.
After releasing their debut of deathy thrash in 2012, these boys are back with their follow-up, New Level of Malevolence. As mentioned before, nothing could be more of a 180 flip for Hammarström than Sterbhaus. Sterbhaus’ style crosses borders between thrash, death, black, fun and simply retarded. The outlandish song titles alone are evidence of this; songs like “Ripping the Pope,” “Project S.A.T.A.N.,” and “House of the Dead Dwarf.” Then there are the ridiculous vidoes (“House of the Dead Dwarf” and “Absolutely Do Not Die”) and silly musical touches in the form of the ridiculous hillbilly breakdown in “Frogboiler.” Asinine? Yes. So idiotic you can’t listen to it? Hell no. But if you decide to follow some Elvira up with Sterbhaus’s new outing, the mindfuckery might create a sudden shift in emotion that leads you to soil your leather trousers.
Sterbhaus actually started out strong with a demo release called Hits for Dead Kids that is both impressive and juvenile. Debuting as new frontman on their first full-lenth, Angels for Breakfast …and God for Lunch, Hammarström and the band found themselves in top form with a release packed full of idiotic banterings, memorable riffs, and Hammarström’s uncanny ability to shove more syllables into a beat than clowns into a VW Bug. It’s actually quite impressive to hear, and his rolled “r”s and his emphasis on the downbeat make it crystal clear that he views his vocal delivery as an art form. Like the debut, you will find plenty of the same vox varieties on New Level of Malevolence. These take the shape of sharp Dani Filth rasps, deathy barks, and a machine-gun delivery reminiscent of Devildriver’s Dez Fafara. And then there are his blatant Zetro Souza moments on killer tracks like opener “Grudgeholder – Hatemonger” and “It Came From the Brain.”
But let’s not forget that the son of a bitch plays the bass too. The dude does not disappoint as he smashes fat strings into this fretboard and delivers chunky bass licks that clap along with the fast-picking guitars and weed-wacker drum blasts. These licks only exaggerate his machine-gun rasps in the thrashy main riffs and breakdowns of numbers like “Grudgeholder – Hatemonger,” “El Giftus Satanus,” and “Bloodbarf;” riffs that show the band’s ass-kissing obsession with Exodus. Opener “Grudgeholder – Hatemonger” is top-notch thrash-love and is easily one of my favorite tracks of the year so far. Not to be outdone, the more melodic tracks like the The Haunted or Witchery-like “The King of the Red” and the badass, emotive Amon Amarthian title track match wits with the thrash and even hint at the passion of Elvira’s past.
For all the fun and humor surrounding New Level of Malevalence, it does suffer from some repetition from track-to-track, with “Crossed and Pissed and Devoured” and “Baby Jee and the 3 Stalkers” falling into filler territory. And though the instrumentation has a good mix and that bass is meaty as hell, its DR7 score seems louder than it should and the upfront vocals seem EVEN LOUDER at times. While not exactly a catastrophe in terms of musicality, the compression makes Hammarström’s goosebump-inducing screeches simply ear splintering. Regardless, these Swedes have some potential and their mix of blackened death thrash is a fun time and well worth the trip. If anything else, load up “Grudegholder – Hatemonger” and let it “whip your ass and whip it good!”