When an album is named after an infamous line from a Grade Z Italian zombie flick, you know what kind of muck you’re stepping into, and Smells of Death is every bit as rancid and rotten as its titular inspiration. The second album by Gods Forsaken, this is another gooey, gory workshop for founding guitarist and all around riff-master Anders Biazzi (Just Before Dawn, Ex-Blood Mortized, ex-Amon Amarth) and his crew of deviant death metallers. Taking the classic Swedish death metal sound created long ago by Entombed and Dismember, Biazzi rolls up his sleeves, cranks the HM-2 to 11 and saws away on your femur with 40 minutes of repugnant, scabby death designed to thrill and disgust. In the hands of master craftsmen such as these, you expect the sonic surgery to be primitive, brutal, and exquisitely painful, and it is. Let’s dispense with the anesthesia and get right to the cutting.
We all know the Swedeath sound like the back of our hairy knuckles, and at this late date in its half-life, everything comes down to execution and exuberance. As demonstrated on the ripping, tearing opening title track, Gods Forsaken knows all about exuberant execution. Crusty, buzzing riffs fly all about, attaching to your flesh and sucking plasma and marrow as drums hit with the percussive force of a tank division. Thick, noxious vocals scream and roar like an oversized demon momentarily trapped in the puny pentagram you expected to keep you safe. It’s everything you could want in this kind of Nazgruel and it’s aided by a collection of gut busting leads from the trio of Biazzi, Gustav Myrin, and Alwin Zuur (Asphyx). When the chorus erupts, the shift to haunted, bleak backing riffs really puts it over. This riff shifting at chorus time is a trick the band uses well several times as the album runs amok through the butcher shop. Killer cuts like “They Crawl” and “Dead and Buried” are d-beat danger zones with slick blends of speed and doom grind segments that really dredge up the dead. Intense stuff.
“Into the Pit We Shall Gather” adroitly shifts between Dismember worship and Amon Amarth battle march riffs, making it the perfect anthem for an undead army besieging your doomed homestead. The vocals are especially ugly and phlegmtastic here, sounding like they’re suppurating up through a cesspool. Some of the best moments occur during “Birth of Insanity,” where the band drags you unceremoniously through frantic anger, Bolt Thrower-esque mechanical plodding and eerie, melancholic graveside gloom. There are no bad tracks and the album blasts over you and onward into battle, leaving you flattened and sore but hungry for more.
With three blokes churning riffs, Smells of Death is chocked full of memorable, head trauma inducing leads. There are also plenty of eerie, unsettling solos and unpleasant harmonies to haunt your dreams. The minimalist approach during these moments make them all the more effective and emotionally impactful. The rabid vocals of Jonny Pettersson (Wombbath, Just Before Dawn) are an album highlight. He sounds absolutely disturbed and demonic, drifting into an inhuman gurgle and sounding like a dead ringer for Kam Lee on moment, then elevating to deranged screaming the next. The man knows how to accentuate the ghastly mood the music creates and he nails it on song after song. Kit assassin Brynjar Helgetun (The Grotesquery, Just Before Dawn) returns to pound you into ass dust with his burly drumming and really lowers the boom with a nonstop barrage of blasts and double bass beatdowns that will oppress you like scum you are.
Smells of Death loses points for a lack of originality, as nearly all Swedeath albums must in 2019, but it’s a whole lot of sick, twisted fun nonetheless. Gods Forsaken, like Blood Mortized before it, know how to blast your brains out and take great delight in doing so. Mr. Biazzi remains one of the best at writing this kind of music, so if you need more riffs in your Swedeath, this is the place to hold your shopping spree ov evil. Come one, come all and smell the cloth!