Heads for the Dead – The Great Conjuration [Things You Might Have Missed 2022]

Main Project Resorption (n): a phenomenon that occurs when a band’s side project grows so vigorously that it threatens to ingest the entity from which it sprung.

I’m not ready to diagnose Sweden’s mighty Wombbath as being vulnerable to Main Project Resorption just yet, but 2022 was a banner year for the outfit’s spinoffs. Guitarist Hákan Stuvemark’s Consumption released the rollicking Necrotic Lust in August, followed in short order by vocalist/guitarist Jonny Pettersson’s third platter with horror-obsessed death metal supergroup Heads for the Dead. Time constraints kept longtime advocate of the band Ferrous Bueller from reviewing The Great Conjuration, so I am tapping in to evangelize for this most worthy effort. The Great Conjuration is an addictive slab of melo-curious Swedeath, an endlessly entertaining spook show that should satisfy fans of Heads for the Dead’s previous albums while bringing new zealots into the fold.

The album straddles the line between spooky and frightening, playing like a carnival haunted house that’s convincing enough to make you worry that the work has become a shoot and you might be in actual danger. Jonny Pettersson doesn’t handle vocals with Heads for the Dead, leaving those duties in the capable hands of Ralf Hauber from Revel in Flesh. That frees up Pettersson to focus on riffcraft and “FX,” which seems to mean adding layers of atmospheric keys and dropping in loads of artfully chosen samples. I wouldn’t have believed you could surprise me with a horror movie sample in a metal song in 2022, but Heads for the Dead pulls it off time and again on The Great Conjuration. The same sampled scream recurs in back-to-back rippers “The Breaking Wheel” and “The Bloodline,” serving as a melodic accent in some spots and a source of demented harmony in others. “The Beast,” meanwhile, deploys shrieks, death gurgles, and then a wolf’s howl in the sample orgy that closes out the song. Pettersson has described his “atmospheric pass” as the final stage of the band’s writing process, and the added care pays dividends on each of these ten tracks.

Matt Moliti of Sentient Horror returns to add shredding guitar solos to the proceedings. His work has never been more evocative of the once and future Black Dahlia Murder guitarist Ryan Knight. Moliti adds vivid detail to tracks like “The Jewel of the Seven Stars” and “The Covenant,” reacting to and building on what’s already there. My favorite moment on the slab occurs toward the end of “World Serpent Dominion,” when Ralf Hauber bellows “LET THE POISON FLOW” and Moliti responds with a solo that sounds for all the world like liquid arsenic.

On The Great ConjurationHeads for the Dead returns with their ferocity and their songwriting chops intact. There’s not a dud in the set, and the band even continues their tradition of well-chosen covers with an exhilarating rip through Roky Erickson’s “Bloody Hammer.” I’ve had this thing on near-constant rotation since it dropped in early September. For my money, it’s Heads for the Dead’s best outing yet—your mileage might reasonably vary there, but there can be no doubt that The Great Conjuration is a stellar addition to an already impressive catalog.

Tracks to Check Out: “The Jewel of the Seven Stars,” “World Serpent Dominion,” “Bloody Hammer”

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