Faceless Burial – Speciation Review

Sometimes you know within seconds that an album is going to absolutely rule. I knew it when I heard the chimes in Desolate Endscape. I knew it when I heard the first riff of “Cognitive Sedation Butchery.” This time I knew it when I heard three notes – guitar, bass, and snare – and fell into a tetanic stupor, fists clenched in ecstasy, tongue projected out to the state line. Faceless Burial just made a modern classic in old school death metal. With Speciation, the Australian trio have split with the simplistic forms of their Grotesque Miscreation debut and evolved into something else entirely, a bellowing, beastly, brainy band that draws from the best of the old school but brings more than its share of new ideas. Speciation is a riff masterclass of Unfathomable ruinaproportion, endlessly offering up new licks to wreck your neck to. It’s a lot to wrap your head around, and the band are happy to bludgeon that cranium with a new weapon whenever it moves.

To that end, Faceless Burial have no shortage of instruments at their disposal. While I’ve never met a caveman riff I wouldn’t invite to fenestrate my skull, Speciation employs a few more subtle ways to get into one’s head. The band switch from cudgel to trephine a few minutes into opener “Worship,” and the record suddenly expands from grimy death metal to trippy prog-death. But the band know what bloodies their bread and maintain a balance between butchery and surgery for the whole runtime. Single “Irreparably Corpsed” compresses a near decade of Death riffs together in sequence, starting in the gunk of Leprosy, bounding out into a proggy Human lick, and continuing into an almost melodeath riff that’s just far enough from “Without Judgement” to not trigger a compulsory spin of Symbolic.

As the record progresses, the riffs come even faster and get even more complex. “Spuming Catarrhal Gruel1” twists a central theme through all three –ations and their associated guitar abuses, yet the song still finds a way to send off the riff in a triumphant transition four minutes in. In that last run through, Faceless Burial sound like no one else. They’ve cycled through the classic interpretations; when their version hits it’s a shot to, rather than from the canon. The band blow a hole in the walls of the hall to fit themselves into it, and Speciation saves the best expression of the Faceless Burial sound for last. “Ravished to the Unknown” ends on an epiphany of a riff that progresses through ringing chords, hammered notes and warbling tremolos.

Even if the riffs and drum patterns weren’t constantly shifting in front of you, Speciation would be an absolute joy to listen to. Faceless Burial have an undeniable chemistry, and the trio attack even the brainiest sections of songs with an incredible brutality. Max Kohane’s kit work is frenetic, never missing a chance to savage the tight, loud snare. Alex MacFarlane’s deep roar arrives with an almost comical amount of reverb and fits all the better for it. Fuj’s restless guitar work sounds gargantuan in riffs and celestial in solos, and every so often he slams out a note at twice the volume of the rest of the riff. Speciation nails that balance between clarity and idiosyncrasy that makes great death metal feel dangerous yet irresistible.

Not since Phrenelith’s Desolate Endscape have I heard old-school death metal sound so nasty, so vital, and so perfectly delivered. Speciation builds on the success of 2017’s Grotesque Miscreation, focusing a successful sound into superb songs that work perfectly as a package. Like Blood Incantation and Tomb Mold, Faceless Burial uncorked the ’90s death metal sound only after letting it ferment and complexify in the cask for two decades, and this blinding riff hooch is as intoxicating as it gets. Brutal, inventive, and downright addictive, Speciation is a compulsory purchase for death metal fans and an intimidating contender for the year’s best metal album.

Rating: 4.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Dark Descent Records/Me Saco Un Ojo Records
Websites: facelessburial.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/facelessburial
Releases Worldwide: August 7th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. It’s almost unfair how good every aspect of this record is.
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