Carnation – Where Death Lies Review

There’s a good reason why I react to music the way that I do. Playing music — especially playing it well — is fucking difficult. There are too many people who spend a lot of time listening to music and lose sight of that fact. They become jaded and inaccurately underestimate the skill and passion required to play anything well. Still, there are others who never lose that sense of awe that comes with discovering a band with that “it” factor and the talent to match. I find this trait admirable to the point that I strive to integrate it into my day-to-day, and what a better place to express it than with my review for Carnation’s highly anticipated sophomore full-length Where Death Lies?

Turns out putting theory to practice in this case was all too easy. This Belgian troupe make nothing original. They make nothing challenging. They make nothing to push their chosen genre to the next stage of evolution. Yet, they are an inspiring testimonial to the effectiveness of a tried-and-true formula perfected. The formula for Carnation comes from old school death metal, with the same vitriol and verve first put forth by early EntombedCannibal Corpse, and to some extent, the less progressive half of Death. Carnation’s debut, released in 2018, dealt straightforward spiked clubs to the balls, mercilessly delivered with riffs for days. Where Death Lies is more of the same, but spicier. More syncopation in the riffs offers a bluesy tint to most of the songs here. Leads and solos take after the same biker-bar swagger that complements notes of leather and blood. To strike home with this slightly altered strategy, a fair measure of melody surreptitiously stains the record, and yet Carnation remain the snarling, flesh-tearing beast we know, love and fear.

Look no further than opening mega-trio “Iron Discipline,” “Sepulcher of Alteration” and “Where Death Lies” for the proof in the pudding which lies in the eating. Insane rapid-fire blasts waste no time beating my senses to a pulp, with a fat groove following close behind to pick me up before knocking me around like a toy again. A second riff comes in which recalls Invictus’s record from early this year. “Sepulcher of Alteration” hooks you in even further with a badass lead melody backed up by some sweet layering in the subsequent barrage of riffs. Intelligent repetition of the main riff aids memory recall of the song, and the length is just right to prime you for more without eliciting an ounce of fatigue. “Where Death Lies” brings more of that Invictus pit-happy thrashing to the party, then swerves into stomping riffs which recall Black Royal’s integration of rollicking blues into death. That is never a bad thing, and it works magnificently here.

The first quality dip surfaces mid-record, with “Serpent’s Breath,” which lacks vitality in the riffcraft and therefore fails to capture my interest. Carnation right the ship in short order, though. Late album highlights “Malformed Regrowth” and “Reincarnation” fucking rule, with massive riff/melody combos to perk your ears and crazy layering of the same to rip them straight off. The closer, however, is too long at seven-and-a-half minutes without enough ideas to make that time feel well-spent. Additionally, certain transitions between riffs, especially in “Spirit Excision” and “Reincarnation,” feel unnatural and clunky even though the riffs themselves are rock-solid. “Napalm Ascension,” which I initially regarded as a top track, similarly stumbles through its various passages despite possessing my favorite drum performance on the record.

The long and short of it is this: Carnation, with the release of Where Death Lies, officially have old-school death metal in their pocket. They sound like countless other bands, as is expected for the subgenre, but they possess that extra little something which makes them special. Massage the transitions between riffs and leads, and maybe trim a pound of fat here and there. That’s all I could find to criticize here that matters. I’m in awe of these guys, and in short order they earned my absolute respect and admiration. Keep that shit up!

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: PCM
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: September 18th, 2020

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