I admit to selecting Down Among the Dead Men from the promo dump based on having a cool name and the hope of uncovering a death metal gem. Well, I guess I should hand my death metal card in now, as unbeknownst to me, Down Among the Dead Men is a well established act with an impressive pedigree amidst their veteran membership. The project is spearheaded by the prolific Rogga Johansson (Paganizer, Eye Purgatory, Thorium among many other credits) and Dave Ingram (ex-Bolt Thrower, ex-Benediction, ex-Hail of Bullets, Ursinne). …And You Will Obey Me is the band’s third LP, and if crust-infected old school death is your jam, then you shouldn’t be disappointed with what the lads dish up here. Vibrant old school death releases from Lik, Skeletal Remains and Ripped to Shreds have highlighted 2018 so far, and with an upcoming full-length from Extremity on the horizon, things are looking bright for fans of the retro style. But can Down Among the Dead Men raise the bar and lay waste to the standout competition?
Despite Johansson and Ingram’s grizzled career pathways and longevity in the scene, their determination and dedication to their craft has not wavered at all. The band collectively wield their tools of destruction with veteran expertise and youthful exuberance across an album of short, fast and brutal tracks. In an age of excessive, bloated albums, it’s refreshing to hear one with an unashamedly old school mentality and concise approach to song-writing. …And You Will Obey Me sounds like a bulky, crush-anything-in-its-path war machine with a supercharged engine, keeping the tempos plugged into overdrive most the time, except when letting the melodies breathe, or when stomping out a neck-wrecking groove section. The template is rather straightforward but mighty effective, featuring whiffs of old school American death underneath the dominant Swedeath influence.
Not one song cracks the four minute barrier, with not even the common trend of punchy songs finalized by a long-winded closer rearing its head. And honestly it works to the album’s advantage, leaving little space for underdone filler material. Extended intro’s are bypassed in favor of jugular aimed immediacy, evidenced on tracks such as the juiced-up punky death drive of “Axis of Insanity” and the hard driving, sprightly rhythms of the addictive title track. Certain songs hit the mark with greater impact than others, however, there are no outright duds. “The Age of Steel” is a rollicking great time, distilling the band’s finer qualities and stylistic ingredients into a killer tune (cheesy sampling aside), while “Omega” and the groove-heavy swagger of “Darkness of Glass” are similarly strong cuts.
Although …And You Will Obey Me is a consistently solid album, some of the song structures and riffs tend to blend together in similar ways, detracting from the overall quality of the album and leaving lingering doubts over the album’s longer term relevance. But performance-wise, the band are on point. Johansson’s guitar work, supported by Paganizer bandmate Kjetil Lynghaug, features plenty of bite and vigor, with the melodic substance and soulful licks adding flair to the bevy of solidly catchy, down and dirty death riffs. Ingram also sounds excellent here; his upfront, hearty growls packing plenty of punch, despite their lack of variety. One aspect difficult to fault, is on the production. The sound is thick and meaty as one would expect, mixing burly, forceful tones with crunchy bite and clarity, all wrapped in a wonderfully dynamic mastering job. Some may argue it could stand to sound a little rawer but mostly it works a treat for the style.
When the dust settles on 2018, …And You Will Obey Me is unlikely to appear on many year end lists, as it’s missing a bit of x-factor to surge into the upper echelons of the old school death scene. Regardless, Down Among the Dead Men is an accomplished act who write solid songs that are easy to kick back and enjoy. …And You Will Obey Me is a fun, consistently solid outing crafted by the dependable hands of a veteran duo with plenty still to offer.