If we apply the maxim of “I didn’t feel like drinking until I started drinking” to listening to metal bands you’ve never heard before, I firmly believe that this fertile ground is where plenty of our favourite records are born. When I first listened to Belgium’s Predatoria in an effort to acclimatize myself to my temporary home’s up-and-coming death metal bands, I had no idea that what they were selling was exactly what I was looking to buy but here we are. In the time I’ve spent with their debut EP Unmarked Graves…Tell No Tales, it’s shot meteorically through my list of favorite records of 2015. I’m almost certain that it was universally missed this year, and that’s a bloody travesty.
Predatoria plays a form of death metal that’s essentially a hybridization of Bolt Thrower and Amon Amarth. This means punishing chugging battery led by the guitars, drums that are perfectly executed but blend into what the guitars are doing and emphasize the riffing instead of overpowering it, and a veritable extravaganza of melodic and crushing hooks. The melodic hooks come from vocalist Koen Dils, whose growls sound like a deadly mixture of three parts Chris Barnes and one part Dave Ingram with a knack for phrasing and vocal hits usually reserved for scene veterans. Unmarked Graves is an efficient and focused killing machine, and it’s almost baffling how refined these guys are given their scant recording history.
Like a death metal version of Khorne’s legions, Predatoria is focused solely on violence and Riffs for the Riff God. Throughout the entirety of Unmarked Graves, the band piles great riffs on top of other great riffs in coherent and interesting but not overly predictable song structures. “As the Flames Grow Higher” is a taut and catchy number with the best melodic hooks Amon Amarth never wrote and ruthlessly efficient time management. “Buried, Entrenched, and Defeated” moves through a series of chugging riffs that build on the intensity of the previous ones, and it makes for an exciting three and a quarter minutes that has an incredible amount of replay value. “Shot on Sight” perfectly recalls “Cenotaph” in its beginning, and the rest of the song follows suit in quality with a Panzer division’s worth of crushing riffs you won’t soon forget.
In spite of all this, it’s during the grand finale of “Blooming and Falling” where Predatoria truly shine. It ratchets up the intensity of Amon Amarth‘s more introspective and sorrowful tunes and combines them with Bolt Thrower‘s mammoth riffcraft, climaxing with a phenomenal solo that recalls Anders Bjorler’s best work. Like Sulphur Aeon, this is melodic death metal that embraces both aspects of the name and sacrifices the best aspects of neither, synthesizing them into something at once brutal and exquisite.
It’s been a full decade since Bolt Thrower‘s cannons faded for the last time, and Predatoria is holding the front lines with a fierce bloodthirst with Unmarked Graves…Tell No Tales. Neither slavish emulation nor unmoored from tradition, Predatoria have released twenty minutes of insanely impressive music that’s worthy of every death metal fan’s time and attention. Highly recommended is an understatement.
Tracks to Check: “Blooming and Falling”, “As the Flames Grow Higher”, “Buried, Entrenched, and Defeated.”