Prepare for a journey into a colossal hole, into the deepest chasm, into a cavern of fetid stench and ooze. Bet you thought I was going to make a “yer mom” joke there didn’t you? Well I didn’t, because I’m talking about destructive Danish death dealers Undergang and their third full length Døden Læger Alle Sår. Ever since I first heard their debut Indhentet af Døden I’ve been a fan, so I jumped at the chance to review this as soon as it came near my desk. If you want a boisterous, filthy, and weighty experience, look no further…except maybe to yer mom on a Friday night. Ha, I had it both ways! See you in H.R. Dr. A.N. Grier!
Since “heavy” and “death metal” aren’t exactly the most useful descriptors, I’ll dissect Undergang’s sound a little further. This is the cavernous and murky variety of death metal, drawing pretty heavily from the underappreciated Rottrevore while taking cues from Disma, Funebrarum, and occasionally early Obituary as well. Naturally a heavy Incantation influence is present and accounted for, as it’s nearly impossible to play this style without drawing from those legends, but Undergang definitely isn’t a third-rate mortal clone of Nazarene. Instead, they manage to pull further influence from the early Finnish death metal scene via Abhorrence and their ilk, with the end result being death metal that’s all at once atmospheric and jam-packed with actual punishing riffs.
The successful repurposing of their influences is where Undergang excels, and “Kronisk Betændelse i tarmene” showcases this perfectly. It initially toys with the subtle melodic nature of Abhorrence and proceeds to incorporate Rottrevore’s style of beating with some hints of old Swe-death as well. It does a lot within a taught three and a quarter minutes, and “Jomfrublodbad” makes good use of over twice that. It combines elements from Incantation, Rottrevore, and Undergang’s own sound to produce a mass of churning riffs and shifting tempos that refuses to take its metaphorical eyes off the ball, keeping itself interesting and coherent, with the appropriation of John McEntee’s signature hammer-ons and pull-offs working brutal wonders in the midsection. “Kogt i Blod” is Incantation worship done right (read: without plagiarism), and the unsettling melody underpinning parts of it reminds me of Dirges of Elysium in quality and sound.
What Undergang failed to do here (and on predecessor Til Døden Os Skiller for that matter) is recapture the lightning in a bottle that was a part of debut record Indhentet af Døden. While Døden Læger Alle Sår and Til Døden Os Skiller are both quality records and surely in the upper echelon of this sound, Indhentet af Døden’s use of brevity has sadly been thrown by the wayside. Although I have no issue with long records, it was the ruthless trimming of fat that helped make Undergang’s debut as great as it was. Much as guitarist and vocalist David Torturdød still writes killer riffs, cracks in the armour have made themselves seen. “Ad Ligbitum” employs an oddly bouncy riff that seems shoehorned in shoots an otherwise good song in the foot whenever it comes up. The introductory title track stumbles out of the block by going basically nowhere for two minutes, making for a bumpy opening to the record. Finally, while there isn’t a shortage of good material here, the inherent limitations of Undergang’s style makes the 51 minutes of death drag on occasion, and songs like “Lemlæstelsens Kunst” and “Radbrækket” stretch themselves too far length-wise with parts that while nonetheless decent sound like lesser versions of what Undergang did both here and on records prior.
Døden Læger Alle Sår is a good record by what I consider to be a great band. I’m at once happy and a bit disappointed with it, as while more Undergang is beneficial to the modern death metal scene, Døden Læger Alle Sår doesn’t reach the heights of the band’s debut and instead stays at the level of Til Døden Os Skiller albeit with a much better production job. It’s filthy yet wonderfully dynamic, a shining example of how this sort of music should be produced. The trio turns in great performances all around with smart and varied drumming by Anders Dödshjælp, massive yet tasteful bass courtesy of Ondsind, and Torturdød nearly reaching Demilich levels of low-pitched growling. There’s plenty of worthwhile material here but a little editing would’ve gone a long way, as monotony does set in at points. Put another way, when Døden Læger Alle Sår finishes I’m left musically “full” as opposed to my urge to immediately hit play again when Indhentet af Døden reaches its conclusion. Nonetheless, Undergang clearly has plenty of vitality left in them, and I sincerely hope they’re far from being done.