As impressive as sweep picking, blast beats and odd-time grooves are, there’s something to be said about death metal that doesn’t reach for the skies but digs in graves. There’s a certain charm to taking a genre and just executing it well rather than adding bells and whistles, and that’s exactly what Beyond the Veil of Flesh does. Gluttony’s début is a half hour of Swedish death metal in the mindset of Jungle Rot, eschewing technicality and showmanship in favor of zombies and gore. As stripped down as a skinned and gutted carcass, Beyond the Veil of Flesh aims not to impress but to please, satisfying a deep craving for the sonic expression of walking corpses.
When I spun this record the first time, it was apparent what Gluttony was going for from the moment that “The Revenant” burst through the peat. Somehow that first note just bleeds intent. The song is a triumph of formula, a repetition of gutsy groove and simple melody tied up in an appropriately sized package. The following title track is more of the same, focusing on a catchy, grinding lead that wraps itself around a midsection with an even more neck-snapping lead and a down-tempo break for an absolutely lobotomized take on a dual guitar solo.
Further songs succeed on their unapologetic adherence to death metal tropes. Off-beat toms and driving bass drums back machine-like riffs enveloping roared lyrics about zombies and cannibalism. In its finest moments, like the criminally catchy closing track “On the Slab”, Beyond the veil of Flesh sounds like a Bloodbath album stripped of any and all extraneous notes. It’s unmistakable Swedish death metal in its simplest and purest form. Every song is an exploration of a few fairly standard riffs and drum patterns, but they somehow manage to be much more than mundane. This kind of music could easily be really, really bad, and I would really, really hate it. The fact that I’ve been listening to the album continuously out of desire rather than obligation speaks to the band’s success in making drop-dead standard death metal feel alive.
The truly excellent aspect of this album is the second-to-second sound. Härén’s guitar is massive and saturated as a surgical sponge and each deep bass note rings with the sound of a ragged-edged cleaver travelling through a cadaver’s neck. Ödling sounds like a less otherworldly Mikael Åkerfeldt, belting out midrange growls with all his might and fitting perfectly into the scoop of the guitar. The sonic cohesion is incredibly tight, making the album pummelling and over the top without feeling as cheesy as it should. Coupled with the obscenely catchy riffs, this beautiful sound puts a near constant grin on my face during the album, which is something my face usually reserves for Revocation records. Beyond the Veil of Flesh sounds fantastic and it’s just plain fun.
Gluttony seems to have mastered short-form death metal. If they were a chef, they could make you any kind of eggs you ask for and you’d be damn pleased with them – just don’t expect a soufflé. So what if their riffs are recycled? When they’re done right, they’re extremely effective; that’s why they keep getting reused. Beyond the Veil of Flesh isn’t trying to revolutionize death metal, it’s trying to celebrate it, and that’s something I can get behind. Despite Gluttony’s ostensible inability to cook more than one kind of dish, I want to keep them around just because they’re so good at getting an omelet just right, with fresh chives, a sprinkling of cheese, and of course, chunks of human flesh.