I bet you were expecting a Mvppet to be sitting here on this giant red velvet armchair, waiting impatiently for you to finally show up. Nope. It’s me again and I’ve diverted a black metal record from the fuzzy grips of our resident alliteration machine. As I zip maniacally through these hallowed halls with Cleveland, Ohio’s Burial Oath’s second offering Subjugation of the Bastard Son, I can’t help but feel karma sneaking up on me. Surely, for all of the crimes and indecencies I have committed here, this new shadowy thing I’ve snatched will mark my last acquisition before the Mvppety One obliterates me in a singularity of hate and caliginosity.
Burial Oath’s debut Beyond the Vale of Shadowlands was solid, but it was nothing special. However, it showcased a band hungry and full of promise, which led me to believe a sophomore effort would impress. One thing is for sure: Subjugation of the Bastard Son is a significantly more immediate black metal release than Beyond the Vale of Shadowlands. Almost completely devoid of atmospherics and ambiance, Burial Oath here conjured a tight record rippling with sinewy riffs and brimming with attitude. This is black metal at its most unencumbered, effortless and simple. Subjugation of the Bastard Son is also much shorter than Beyond the Vale of Shadowlands, clocking in at a teensy twenty-two minutes. You will get tons of replay value out of this record, as these twenty-two minutes pass more quickly than you might expect thanks to its unmitigated fervor.
Subjugation of the Bastard Son contains no bad songs. The introductory instrumental “Introduction” (imaginative, I know) is actually useful, as it evokes anticipation and stylistically gels with what follows. From there Burial Oath charges forth an unending blitzkrieg of wild riffery inspired by the standards set by black metal (“Conjuring Unholy Light” and “Crown of the Black Altar”), death metal (“Goatcraft” and “Nailed Down and Devoured by Darkness”), thrash metal (“Reaper of Flesh”) and even a touch of grind (“Serpentslut”). Yet despite the myriad styles explored, Burial Oath mold them in their own blackened image, bestowing upon Subjugation of the Bastard Son a concrete identity few records in the genre possess.
Rarely do I hear a live recorded album that sounds as cohesive and smooth as Subjugation of the Bastard Son. Dominic Passalacqua is the culprit behind the riveting riffs, using his guitars to devastate every second of tape as inhumanly possible. Sean Deth retches unholy sin from the infernal depths of fire and brimstone, his delivery mixing pained rasps and subterranean growls with wild abandon and giving the record diversity uncommon in the field. Jesse Greenfeather pummels the kit with vitality, shifting gears and fostering the listener’s impulse to disintegrate the vertebrae with each blast and fill. While each musician impresses on his own, the unit as a whole simply dumbfounds. As a direct result of this robust chemistry, each song feels like the best song on the album when you’re actively engaged with it.
There are only two criticisms that I think are worth mentioning. Firstly, this album is perhaps too short. It plays like a grindcore record—fast, furious and fun—but I want three more songs in which to revel. While the current runtime makes revisits easy, having some additional content would flesh out the final product to be as filling as it is tasty. Secondly, this motherfucker is loud and severely bricked. Everything is heard loud and clear, but I would have preferred more emphasis on clear than on loud.
Burial Oath brought a decent black metal debut with Beyond the Vale of Shadowlands, but Subjugation of the Bastard Son blows that clean out of the water. By way of genre exploration, the band spiced up their sound while simultaneously cementing their own identity, allowing Burial Oath to sound like a typical black metal act—albeit a good one—no longer. Diminutive album length and overall loudness notwithstanding, Subjugation of the Bastard Son is a pinky-toe’s distance from essential listening. The best part? Burial Oath are just getting started.