Casket Huffer. There’s a name that begs the question “because why the fuck not?”1 Given their moniker, I originally expected this Wyoming quartet2 to produce noxious fumes of the bestial blackened death metal variety. And while there’s always room in the house of Z. for the Conquerors and Caveman Cults of the world, what Huffer have produced on their second album Filth Ouroboros is actually quite a bit different. This is still musty and nasty music, but it’s quite a bit blacker and more atmospheric than the beatdown I was expecting, not to mention showing some apparent stylistic evolution from the bludgeoning samples I’ve heard of their 2016 debut Gospels of Scum. Take a deep breath now, because it’s the last bit of fresh air you’ll be getting for a while.
At heart, Huffer play morose and cavernous death metal that calls to mind bands like Dead Congregation or Desolate Shrine. Riffs are never forgotten, yet the atmospheric varnish that covers them makes it sound like they’re howling from some cold subterranean chamber where they’ve been left to die. The effect is rounded out by the bellowing and gurgly roars of vocalist Than Wilson, which have sufficient reverb to conjure a sense of space without losing their power. Opener “Altars of Despondency” shows this all from the start, riding vast tremolos before moving into huge treacherous riffs and throwing in an immense rhythmic shift for good measure. It’s a solid start that shows the band’s proclivity for dousing a death metal foundation with a mood more akin to black metal.
As Ouroboros continues, more of the band’s personality comes out. Dwelling within these eight tracks are all sorts of riffs, from doom riffs that crash and heave like some dying beast, to vast riffs which ascend into the Great Nothing, to frantic riffs which whip with the fury of Azarath. Perhaps the best example is late highlight “Caustic Winds,” which alternates between an almost thrashy blackened death riff and a slower progression, before hitting a monumental beat shift which demands for heads to be banged. While Huffer aren’t nearly as technical as Ulcerate, the way these songs ebb and flow, combined with their sense of terrifying vastness, does remind me of those dissonant death metal icons. Nowhere is this more apparent than “The Antichrist Vessel,” whose main squealing tremolo line sounds like some inter-dimensional tentacle grasping for you through a rip in space-time.
“Antichrist” also shows the band’s tendency to utilize ideas which feel almost quirky in context. The song ends with a crunchy thrash break which almost sounds like Sodom, which somehow works even if it’s an odd pairing with the riffs that precede it. Yet the strangest moment comes in “Genocide Thralls.” The track features a bizarre black metal riff that, if it wasn’t pulled from a Krallice song, will probably be used in a Krallice song at some point. The riff is followed by a mournful lead which sounds like something from a folky atmospheric black metal tune. While they’re both good ideas, they feel a bit out of place, like your mom trying to FaceTime you while you’re browsing Pornhub. Likewise, Huffer occasionally repeat their riffs too much. Closer “Harrowing Mysticism,” for instance, features a mighty riff which loses its potency when it’s repeated for most of the song’s eight minute runtime. Fortunately the production works well despite the somewhat loud sound, with smooth and trebly guitars buttressed by a thunderous undercurrent.
Though I didn’t get the cranial implosion I expected from Casket Huffer, I can’t say I’m disappointed. The band is still young and though they still have room to grow in the songwriting department, they have a knack for conjuring a palpable atmosphere and delivering distinct and enjoyable riffs. I’m not sure Filth Ouroboros will be making my Top 10 list at the end of the year, but it’s certainly an album I’ll look back on favorably, not to mention an easy recommendation for those who like their black and death metal garnished with a particularly vast yet musty atmosphere. You can almost smell it.