Casket Robbery – Rituals of Death Review

Over the past year I’ve discovered a deeper respect for brutal death metal. Sure it plays to our most base instincts. Sure it targets the reptilian portions of our brain and coaxes out our inner knuckle draggers. Sure it places brutality and simplicity over technicality and nuance. But why are we here on a site called “Angry Metal Guy” if we’re not game to bury pointed sticks in our amygdalas, set our limbic systems on fire and throw rocks at the sun like good old fashioned Neanderthals? It was for that frontal lobe-atomizing experience that I picked up Rituals of Death, the second full-length from Wisconsin’s own Casket Robbery. Combining a brutish name and fitting song titles with a growing desire to jump aboard the slam wagon, I was more than eager to dive head first into this record and get my casket well and truly robbed. 

Casket Robbery are guitar-smashing Cro-Magnons to be sure, but they have a bit more going for them than serving as just another Devourment clone. While you get plenty of fat, mid-paced riffs amidst a barrage of double bass and snare action, there are also different vocal deliveries, synths, solos and atmospherics that help augment (and in some cases rise above) what we’ve come to expect from the brutal death metal genre. In many ways, these additions are like putting pretty pink bows on a rabid St. Bernard. Sure it’ll still maul you, but the bright colors may draw your eye right before it’s ripped from its socket. The unrelenting barrage is also punctuated by plenty of surprisingly catchy moments and memorable choruses, choices that remind me of The Texas Murder Crew, another BDM band I reviewed earlier this year who had a similar knack for crafting a solid hook.

While the guitars crush, smash and chug away on Rituals of Death, it’s the drums that really drive the album forward, bursting ahead with speed-demon double bass and a blastbeat assault worthy of a restraining order. Opener “Worm Food” is the template for this approach, while simultaneously introducing effective backing synths that help balance some of the more brutish elements on display. “Don’t Forget the Eyes” similarly toys with atmospheric synths as well as a quirky solo and “Death’s Dance” concludes with a foreboding orchestral interlude. These tunes capture Casket Robbery at their best: able to blend pummeling breakdowns with the unexpected and out-of-the-ordinary (for BDM, at least). This is perhaps most apparent in the varying vocal deliveries on the album. From Megan Orvold-Scheider’s omnipresent growls to deeper, grimier vox, layered vocals (“Beautiful Death,” “Bone Mother”) chants (“Post Mortem”), whispers (“The Hidden Hideous”) and even a lone clean. Add in some earworm choruses, pit-stoking riffs, and clever backing synths on “Reanimate” that echoes without aping the amazing “Re-Animator” theme, and Casket Robbery crafted an album with enough personality and vigor to warrant a respectful amount of spins.

That being said, those repeated spins may have less of an impact than you’d hope for. Casket Robbery claim that their slamtastic salvos are “brutally catchy,” and they’re correct. There are plenty of solid hooks on Rituals of Death, making the already tight runtime go by even quicker. The issue is that even after multiple listens, those memorable moments aren’t so memorable after all. They’re fun in the moment and they certainly inspire a gnawing desire to attack the nearest large mammal with a sharpened tool, but once the album has ended, the dust has settled and you go on about your day, those catchy moments from Rituals of Death don’t tend to stick around. In short, these grave thieves have a fun but fleeting record on their hands; engaging in the moment, but too quickly forgotten. 

In their Bandcamp bio, Casket Robbery refer to themselves as “death metal with a wink.” I think that is a perfect description for this band and perhaps the brutal death metal subgenre as a whole. This midwestern quintet brings the riffs, the chugs, the brutality, and the catchiness, all without taking themselves too seriously. It’s a fine line, but one Casket Robbery seems prepared to walk, even amidst a few stumbles and false starts. So while my takeaway is ultimately a mixed one, this is a score that must be punctuated with the “room to grow” qualifier. Brutal death and slam continue to grow on me, and Casket Robbery has assisted in that imperfect journey. Kudos, you filthy cemetery fiends. 

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Blood Blast Distribution
Websites: casketrobbery.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/casketrobbery
Releases Worldwide: November 11th, 2022

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