Undead are the next logical step in “unknown” bands. We have Portal playing solid dissonant death metal while one guy wears a clock on his head, but all of the members have pseudonyms of their own and we knew they hail from Australia. Then we have Ghost adding gimmicky interest to their saccharine sing-song Satanism by coming from the land of ABBA and referring to every band member but vocalist Papa Emeritus I or II as a “nameless ghoul.” Undead throw us a small curveball by not referring to any member as anything, not revealing their location, and generally keeping tight-lipped about everything online. Why? Three options: 1) Undead really want a gimmick; 2) Undead are a supergroup or at minimum have some well-known members but don’t want to be viewed in light of said members’ other projects; 3) Undead made a somewhat misguided but nonetheless valiant attempt to let their music do the talking.
Assuming 3) is correct, talk False Prophecies does. It speaks loudly about death metal circa 1988-1993, drawing primarily from Death, Morgoth, Massacre, Morta Skuld, Obituary, Pestilence, and Asphyx. Yes, you’ve absolutely heard stuff like this before. If you haven’t, I’d like the number of the guy who did the soundproofing for the rock you clearly live under so I can listen to this kind of thing loudly without my neighbors complaining and reminding me that I’m allegedly “violating noise bylaws.” First: this is death metal, not “noise,” you uncultured bastards. Second: complaints, really? From where I sit (in front of my speakers), Undead isn’t giving me a whole lot to complain about.
Within the first twenty seconds of False Prophecies, Undead lets you know in the least subtle way that they aren’t fucking around. “Unborn” brings the quality riffs straight outta Leprosy and Cursed topped with vocals that sound more than a little like Marc Grewe (hmm…) that ought to at least get the invisible pineapples squeezed. The vast majority of “Unbound to Eternity” sees Undead doing Massacre better than Massacre themselves did on Back From Beyond with some little nods to Hell Awaits thrown in for good measure. On the other side of the Atlantic, “Praise the Absurd” spends much of its runtime successfully embracing the style of early Asphyx due to its heavy yet hook-laden slow burn, and I don’t need to tell you that’s a good thing. Honestly, I could name highlights until I’m blue in the face but that seems excessive. Instead, I’ll simply say that Undead’s music has a palpable energy that goes hand-in-hand with their riffs-over-all songwriting approach, making the few weaker sections on display feel more like little speedbumps instead of deep and noticeable valleys.
Said speedbumps are minor, but they’re definitely present. “Castrate Humanity” is good, but I can’t shake the feeling Undead could’ve done a bit more with the time they allotted it. It never gets boring, but it veers a bit too close to “tolerable” for comfort. The title track possesses a similar issue, but in both cases the riffs are strong enough to prevent the song from dragging. Lead guitars are another boon for the entire record, coming across flashy and impressive without sounding gratuitous. While they’re often played over simple riffs, they bear a much greater similarity to James Murphy playing in Obituary than Ralph Santolla playing in Obituary, which translates to Undead employing some tastefully demented yet impressively fluid lead work.
The production job on False Prophecies isn’t going to win Undead any Dynamic Range Day awards, but I can’t be bothered to care because it showcases the music perfectly and simply sounds good. Guitars have an authoritative and burly tone that suits the riffs to a tee, vocals are up front and raw with the occasional bit of reverb applied for effect, drums are hefty with the snappy Leprosy brand of snare, and the bass carves out a nice space in the mix, reminding me of Terry Butler in both tone and performance (hmm…).
If it wasn’t clear by all the name-dropping in this review, Undead aren’t doing anything remotely innovative here. I can’t consider this to be a major flaw though, as False Prophecies seems to have a single-minded focus to make fans of undiluted early death metal remember the simpler times, don a knowing smile, and headbang ‘til their necks hurt. Having spun this and done just that plenty of times, I can confidently say that they succeeded.