Deathcult – Of Soil Unearthed Review

The second I saw Deathcults Of Soil Unearthed in the promo sump, I knew I had to have it. Not because I’d heard their first album, 2010’s Beast of Faith, but because that name is death metal distilled; the kind of brutish, on-the-nose moniker that conjures pleasant thoughts of Guyana in 1978. The kind of name which whispers sweet nothings to the reptilian part of my brain that produces monosyllabic grunts whenever I hear a guttural vocal, a crunchy riff, or a vile lyric or two. According to Encyclopaedia Metallum, there are 18 different Deathcult or Deathcult-adjacent entries, meaning a fair few metalheads have gotten plenty of mileage out of the handle over the past several decades. So how do these Swiss miscreants stack up? Does their chosen brand of throwback DM, harkening to the buzzsaw-fueled legacies of their Swedish forebears, make them the ultimate claimant to that most righteous of band names? Let’s take a gander.

While Deathcult don’t come right out and list their influences in their promo material, it’s clear we’re in Entombed and Dismember territory. As an OSDM adherent, that’s more than fine by me. They mention their “noble influences from the late 80s and early 90s,” but even without that brief notation, the Swede Death buzz is strong with this one, and it shows on track after crunchy track. Of Soil Unearthed isn’t afraid to embrace these influences, and they’re often used to pummeling effect. The album is given additional heft thanks to Deathcult’s willingness (some might call this “musical self control”) to slow things down and bring the DM frenzy to a doomy crawl; a thick churn that helps to add variety and build anticipation (and the size of the pit) in the lead up to yet another fiery explosion of speed-demon riffs. You can catch a dose of this tasty juxtaposition1 on tracks “Doxology and Putrescence,” “Swine of Oblivion,” and album closer “Alastor.”

Successful as this approach may seem and as lofty a pedigree as their influences possess, Deathcult’s latest turns out to be a mixed bag of sorts. Instrumental opener “Iron Beclawed Rules The Divine” balances foreboding atmospherics with brutal intensity well, and “On Primal Wings,” the second track and an eight-minute behemoth, devastates with a killer opening riff and plenty of variation in speed and tone, from mid-paced, deathened chugs to doom-laden trudges to a blast-beat-laden closer. But the next few tracks, while they certainly have their moments of classic OSDM riffage and engaging songwriting, tend to blend together. While Deathcult can certainly compose a beastly riff (see “On Primal Wings,” “Doxology and Putrescence,” “Black Vapour Coagulation, and “Funeral Trance”) and bolster the proceedings with a few unexpected interludes and shifts, we’re still left with the death metal equivalent of that unclaimed dish at Thanksgiving: compelling and generally enjoyable, but slightly suspect and maybe just a little bit off.

The blame need not fall on a single set of shoulders, as there are several issues at hand that combine to weaken what could have been a stronger Of Soil Unearthed. The BM-adjacent vocals aren’t a problem inherently, as I tend to enjoy a nice blackened char on my death metal, but they’re too low in the mix to be effective. There are moments where the vox are drowned out almost entirely, as if they’re coming from a singer caught in high-tide. This same issue plagues the drums as well. Thanks to more wonky mixing, hallmarks of OSDM like crisp, brutal blasts and heart-battering double bass are robbed of most of their edge. Moments that should resonate are instead overwhelmed by walls of buzzy sound, and the overall impact is severely curtailed as a result. Add to this the tendency of tracks three through six to meld together and threaten the listener with boredom, and you’re left with an album that falls short of its true potential.

On Of Soil Unearthed, Deathcult have crafted a fun but frustrating ode to the Swede Death greats of the 80s and 90s. Moments of inspired riffage, variety in both tone and speed, and a heaping dose of nostalgia are marred by an off-kilter mix, uneven vocals, and a monotonous midsection featuring good ideas that are inconsistently executed. So while they may be on the hunt for new adherents, I regret to inform the AMG readership that I won’t be seeking membership in this particular Deathcult. At least not until a few changes are made.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Invictus Productions
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: January 28th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. Penalty assessed, food rationed forfeited. – Steel
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