Do you smell it? A smell like sulfur, sweaty leather, and burning corpses? That’s the smell of blackened fukkin death metal, and boy is it ever in season right now. August alone has seen new releases from Diocletian, Abysmal Lord, and Concrete Winds, with many more no doubt lurking in the darkest corners of Bandcamp and Spotify. Virginia duo Antichrist Siege Machine are the latest to join this infernal party and I’ve been looking forward to their arrival quite a bit. I caught Machine live last year and while in retrospect I don’t remember much of their performance,1 it impressed me enough to check out their 2017 EP Morbid Triumph. Though its production was rough, the EP’s riffs were numerous and varied for the style, leaving me with some excitement for their Schism Perpetration debut.
Perpetration is like Revenge with more discernible riffs and a heftier sound. This is blackened death metal that relishes chaos and extremity, complete with a thick, rumbly low end and big thumping drums that hit like an artillery strike. Both the production and occasional noise flourishes make Perpetration feel less like an album and more like an immense machine rolling over the battlefield, leaving the crushed skulls of Nightwish fans and Instagram influencers in its wake. The drumming is also quite dynamic, shifting freely from blasts to stomps to punky beats, making it sound like this machine has a few screws loose. With vocals that consist of a low bellowing roar, the overall effect is more punishing than aggressive and calls to mind a lightly industrialized Heresiarch.
Like the EP, the riffs here are distinct and the production keeps them from being totally lost in the chaos. Early highlight “Enduring Power” shows this from beginning to end, moving from the churning chords of its opening to a stomping stop-start riff before closing with a riff that sounds like an animal vomiting itself inside out. Machine love their tremolos as well, with “Cleaved from Flesh” and closer “Utopian Hope” employing immense tremolo lines under stomping beats. Later tracks like “Schism Perpetration” and “Prime Mover” utilize a cool approach where wailing yet consonant chords burst aggressively from murkier progressions, an effect which adds a wild urgency to things.
Yet for how much the band do right, I’m not totally smitten. At 9 tracks and less than 29 minutes in length, Perpetration crams plenty of ideas into each song but doesn’t always do it in a way that’s compelling. Opener “Incinerated Enemy,” for example, does a great job building tension with an ascending tremolo line in its midsection, but elsewhere in the song are pretty stock chords which don’t really complement this idea. At times the arrangements feel arbitrary and this holds back songs like “Cleaved from Flesh” from achieving their full potential. It doesn’t help that the weaker tracks are at the beginning and end of the album, or that the 58-second “Hell Fire Reign” feels throwaway and underdeveloped. Yet in other ways, Machine do a good job structuring Perpetration. Take “Numbing Decay,” which follows its immense chugs and terrifically headbangable assault with an extended outro that offers a welcome respite in the album’s midsection.
There’s a cliche that this sort of blackened death metal is little more than noise. Antichrist Siege Machine have the riffs to prove this wrong but are still lacking something else. Great bands, no matter how heavy, possess a certain grace that guides them into placing ideas in just the right way to maximize their music’s impact. In this regard, Perpetration doesn’t always succeed. It doesn’t help that, for all the distinct and quality riffs, there are still several that feel pretty rote. Nonetheless, the sheer force of the music is compelling, as is the band’s martial and vaguely industrialized approach. I can definitely see fans of Revenge, Goatpenis, and their ilk getting a nice swift kick out of this. Yet for how much I want to rate Schism Perpetration higher, I can’t help but feel that this Machine needs a little fine tuning before it can truly rise to the next level.