Cemetery Filth – Dominion Review

For such an iconic band, there aren’t many modern groups that sound very much like Death. Sure, Gruesome’s whole schtick is sounding like them and Skeletal Remains have a hearty Death influence, but compared to the legions of bands that mimic Entombed or Incantation, Chuck Schuldiner’s brainchild seems underrepresented. After Live Burial answered the call earlier this month, Atlanta’s Cemetery Filth are here with their Dominion debut to profess their own love of Schuldiner’s work. For me, it couldn’t have come at a better time. With the global pandemic keeping everything in lockdown, I’ve spent recent weeks delving into classic Florida death metal rather than going to the gym and listening to whatever bullshit I’ve put on my workout playlists. As such a new album in the Florida death metal vein sounded right up my alley. It doesn’t hurt that the band name is awesome, the artwork is equally cool, and the album shares its name with the upcoming sixth entry in the Jurassic Park series.

Filth have ostensibly spent years crafting this debut, having released their Screams from the Catacombs EP in 2014 and only putting out a few splits since then. One would expect them to have a lot of pent up energy and one would be correct. After beginning with a stringy riff straight out of 1993, opener “Subduction” soon accelerates into a morass of churning tremolos and spitfire vocals, the latter of which sound a lot like the late Chuck’s raspy growls. “Exhumed Visions” and “Paralytic Scourge” take the Death influence even further, the former with a glorious guitar solo straight out of Symbolic, the latter with big shuddering chords that remind me of moments from Spiritual Healing. In addition to Death, the charging tempos and fast riffs often have a snarling punkiness about them that recalls Autopsy, while some pounding thrash moments in songs like “Churning of the Shallows” remind me of Malevolent Creation.

It’s competently played death metal and I want to like it. But as Dominion continues, I have trouble doing so. Perhaps the biggest problem is that Filth’s riffs simply lack the intrigue of classic death metal. Back in the early days of the style, pioneers like Death and Morbid Angel were blazing a trail, hooking listeners with strong riffs and convincing people that this budding young genre was worthwhile. Today, the style has been created, the fanbase has been established, and as such bands can get away with writing less compelling material while still finding an audience. While there’s still good death metal out there these days, there’s also a lot of albums like Dominion, albums that trudge through their runtimes without the hooks or memorability of the classics. It doesn’t help that Filth’s songwriting tends to be linear rather than repetitive, making most of these songs feel like an assemblage of decent riffs that even the band know aren’t worth revisiting.

To be fair, there are scattered moments of intrigue. One of the most interesting comes with the short instrumental “From Euphonic Crypts,” which evokes the otherworldly vibes of Morbid Angel’s “Desolate Ways” with its evocative melody and almost proggy guitar effects. Likewise, the closing title track, while a bit bloated with its nearly nine minute runtime, nonetheless ends things on a strong note with a stomping mammoth riff that sounds like a march to one’s doom. In pursuit of Filth’s apparent goal of keeping things old school, the production likewise sounds a lot like classic death metal, with a dry guitar tone and an overall sound that recalls a modernized version of the 90s Morrisound style.

There’s nothing really bad about Cemetery Filth or Dominion, but even after repeat listens I have a hard time remembering much or wanting to return to this album. Filth sound like the type of band you’d support out of courtesy, the type of band who opens for an established act at a local show and whose guitarist you compliment when you seen him at the bar afterwards even if you know you’re never going to buy his band’s record. The potential is always there for Filth to improve in the future, but for now, it’s tough to to recommend Dominion to anyone but the most devoted death metal diehards.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Labels: Boris Records | Unspeakable Axe Records
Website: facebook.com/cemeteryfilth
Releases Worldwide: April 13th, 2020

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