As my residency in the AMG catacombs plods forever onward, I find myself occasionally stymied by my own music library. Keeping up with proggy tech-death might not be a full time job, but I’ve got enough records in that vein to keep me entertained for quite a while if I get a hankering. Yet sometimes I want music every bit as brutal but without the pretense or sweep picking, and I find myself wanting a bit more in the quality department. There are plenty of death metal bands out there, but not enough records that I can spin whenever the phrase “brutal death” occurs to me and be pleased with the experience. Unholy Infestation is that kind of record.
There is nothing special about this record. No mind-boggling solos, no affecting melodies, not a whiff of progressive ideas or grand concepts. What it does have is everything a brutal album needs: riffs, hatred, and a conspicuous lack of snare dampening.
To put it simply, Desecrate the Faith sound like a grittier version of Aborted or Benighted, and their no-nonsense approach to death metal songwriting is a breath of fresh air. Each brutal, grindy riff that these guys spit across your eardrums is placed and played with confidence. Songs like Malignant Divinity plunder the brutal death playbook for riffs but arrange the scraps with utmost care. The parts all fit together here, and the songs are engaging without ever being challenging or subversive of expectations. It might be a textbook brutal death album, but without recent experience, it’s easy to forget that textbooks are fucking heavy.
Unholy Infestation isn’t all excellent, but I’m having trouble materializing complaints about it. If pressed, I’d say that Desecrate the Faith, like a lot of brutal bands, produce a few too many riffs for their own good, and they’ll often pass over repeating a great riff for introducing a new one that’s not quite as successful. The title track features one of the best pinch-driven riffs Katalepsy ever forgot to write, but the band don’t milk the pinch-heavy variant of the riff for as much as they could have. Yet it’s surrounded by high quality. “Shrine of Enmity” is a Benighted-style ripper that incorporates some respectable slamming as well as the rabid blasts you’d expect from the crazed Frenchmen, and “Magna Daemonia” really lets the kit lead musically.
Unholy Infestation is not spectacularly produced, but it’s again hard to find issue with the record’s sound. Would I have asked for a bit more headspace? Maybe – but a brutal death metal album like this just needs a good mix and enough grit to sound respectable to pass muster in the Court of Kronos. Oh, and an upfront, tight snare. Have I mentioned that? Desecrate the Faith have that snare sound down, and the guttural vocals to go with it. Since I’ve got Benighted on the brain, I find myself occasionally wishing that vocalist1 John Hull tried for a more diverse delivery. Even without pigsquealery, the band could benefit from a more commanding performance from behind the mic, and when he goes for variety, it works – the mix of gutturals and higher screams on “Angel Eater” takes the song to a whole new level of extremity.
This won’t particularly move you, and it’s probably not going to shoot up your top ten list. It won’t start new genres or even land the band a headlining tour. But this is a brutal death metal record, and a pretty good one at that. You should listen to it, and if you like it, throw a couple of bucks to Desecrate the Faith. They’ve certainly earned it, because Unholy Infestation is a great example of great execution in a genre that’s hard to get right.