To most people, the word “carnation” refers to a frilly colored flower. Belgium’s Carnation aren’t most people. In fact, if the music on this death metal quintet’s debut is any indication, to them a “carnation” is a 14-foot Venus flytrap-esque monstrosity with teeth like steak knives and vines that could crush your puny little ribcage like a bag of potato chips. Chances are you haven’t heard of Incinerate, Fallout, and Prematory, which are some of the bands Carnation’s members used to play in. Fret not, because it’s likely Carnation will grow to outshine all of them anyway. Formed in 2013, these Belgians first caught attention with 2015’s Cemetery of the Insane EP, before getting picked up by Season of Mist for this full-length debut. If you thought a band named after a puffy flower couldn’t possibly pack a wallop, you have no idea what the Chapel of Abhorrence has in store.
Ferrous was actually originally slated to review this album and tipped me off by describing it as a mix of Dismember and Vader. I couldn’t have come up with a more apt comparison myself. Carnation dwell in the realm of barreling punk rhythms and big crunchy riffs that Dismember used to relish when they weren’t delivering more overt melody. At the same time, the bone-saw tremolo riffs and lockstep chugs imbue these 11 tracks with a militant edge straight out of the Vader boot camp. Vocalist Simon Duson is the cherry on top of it all, roaring like Dan Swanö and Glen Benton had an ugly ass baby that gained superpowers through a radioactive mishap.
Opener “The Whisperer” is the perfect synthesis of the two styles, alternating between charging Dismember verses and destructive Vader chugs before climaxing with a melody fished straight out of the Ever Flowing Stream. It’s the classic “propulsive opening and epic ending” formula of Entombed’s “Left Hand Path,” and it works just as well here as ever. “Hellfire” follows with more pummeling Vader goodness before a thrashy bridge leads one straight from the Morbid Reich into the more melodic realms of Swedeath.
But lest you think this war horse is a one-trick pony, think again. “Chapel of Abhorrence” and “The Unconquerable Sun” offer early variety, slowing the pace to a confident stomp that’s just as potent as the preceding tracks. Songs like “Disciples of Bloodlust” and “Hatred Unleashed” take the opposite approach, accelerating into frantic tempos, irate riffs, and staccato vocal patterns that sound like Deicide finally started eating healthy and using their Planet Fitness memberships. Later songs like “Magnum Chaos” go even further, employing snaky riffs that could have come straight from Tomb Mold’s newest.
Point is, Chapel of Abhorrence is a death metal smorgasbord that any fan of the genre is almost certain to enjoy. The songwriting is direct enough to be memorable but adventurous enough to stay engaging, while the clear and modern production packs a beefy punch. Unfortunately, even with a decent dynamic range, everything still sounds a little too IN YOUR FUCKING FACE and lacking in atmosphere. Furthermore, later tracks like “Sermon of the Dead” and “Fathomless Depths” are slower and feel far less distinct from each other than those in the first half. At 48 minutes, Chapel is already a long album for the style. While nothing here is bad, leaving a song or two on the cutting room floor certainly wouldn’t have hurt my feelings.
But all told, those complaints are mere quibbles. Ultimately, Chapel of Abhorrence is up there with Extremity’s newest as one of the best death metal debuts of the year, and Carnation have earned their place as one of the most promising new bands in the genre. While they aren’t inciting a revolution, their use of familiar influences is inspired enough that any fan of good ol’ fuck-your-face-off death metal is sure to enjoy. Do you want slicing tremolos? They got ‘em. Crunchy chugs? Oh yeah. Dainty green and white carnations? Try somewhere else, pal.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: carnationofficial.bandcamp.com | carnationband.com | facebook.com/carnationbe
Releases Worldwide: August 17th, 2018