There is no shame in having loved and lost – it’s a natural part of life and, as sure as the world turns and the seasons pass, as inevitable as our own eventual end. Love and death are two themes that are routinely romanticized, despite their irrefutably painful reality. By extension, The Netherlands’ Antropomorphia are also romantics… although not in the Byronic sense you might be expecting. If, like me, this is your first dance with the band, then you may be interested to learn that the death-metallers fourth release, Sermon ov Wrath, continues, amongst others, an apparent thematic trend in espousing the virtues of occult necrophilia – remember: 5 second rule, guys. Forging uncompromising, groove-heavy riffs, which may well have been the spawn of that time Deicide had one depraved night with Behemoth, and never called them back, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the band definitely know how to separate the wheat from the chaff – the living from the dead.
Although, undoubtedly playing host to a decidedly “blackened” element, it’s still very much a death metal sound that Antropomorphia have crafted throughout their deceptively long tenure. Sermon ov Wrath rumbles into life with the title track, full of no-nonsense death metal with a driving drum pattern to make Steve Asheim proud. “Susperia de Profundis” and album closer “In Bestial Decadence” are all straight for the throat but betray the bands understanding of song craft by each supplying enough head-bangable riffs to easily commit the tracks to memory. Conversely, it’s the more mid-paced moments where the album truly shines. “Murmur ov the Dead” doesn’t pretend to hide its blackened Polish influences, utilizing powerful melodies to aid vocalist and guitarist F.D.A in his deft, stentorian delivery.
Without doubt, the highlight, on a record certainly not devoid of quality, is “Crown ov the Dead,” knowingly heralded by its own mid-album intro. The song extensively borrows Swedish inspired verse riffs that would be more than comfortable featuring on any of Grave‘s offerings. Before it limits itself, it takes on a distinctly gothic overtone at the halfway point, where eerie female vocals, courtesy of Dool‘s Ryanne van Dorst, slither in under the lumbering rhythms, adding a nuance I just wasn’t expecting. In fact, diversity makes its home squarely in the middle of the album, with the macabre “Within Her Pale Tomb ov Putrid Lust” stolidly funneling melo-death barbed hooks through my headphones, which made my walk home from work particularly violent. Songs featuring morose atmospherics generated through F.D.A and Jos Van Den Brand’s sparse use of tremolo picked rhythms glaze much of the record with an arcane, yet overwhelming sense of fun.
Oddly, it’s the melange of inspirations that niggled at my time with Sermon ov Wrath the most. Although, admittedly a minor quibble at best, the center of the album is so superior in quality that it detracts from the more linear songs that bookend the record. Pacing seems to be a real issue in metal these days, and while this is an infinity away from being the worst offender, I would have liked to have found the tracks more evenly distributed. The fairly clean production frosts the guitars with a cold, metallic ringing, not unlike early career Amon Amarth. A pummeling double bass drum attack makes for a bold foundation for each song to gain malevolent traction; its just a shame that Marc Van Stiphout’s bass is so buried in the mix.
Opting to fuse Swedeath inspired riffing with melodic black metal sequences, Antropomorphia have crafted a record of unapologetically enjoyable death metal. Not content to allow their morbidity to bluster by unappreciated, Sermon ov Wrath instead opts to crush your enemies, drive them before you, and assume the mute lamentations ov their questionably animate women. If you’re a fan of death metal in its purest form like me, and have an appreciation for a highly memorable, well-crafted musical pathology, then be sure to lend this an ear.