Metal fans are fucking hard to please. We bitch when a band becomes predictable, and then we bitch some more when they experiment outside of our comfort zones. But whether you’re a contrary bastard or not, dependability is always a risky approach. We can investigate the paradox, in part, by applying two methodologies. First: the Slayer Equivalency. The act of happening upon a winning formula and then bleeding it to death despite rapidly diminishing relevance. And the second: the Angel Corpse Optimisation. A fast and frantic existence, knowingly brief, but with enough foresight to burn out with a nuclear burst of atomic violence. Brazil’s fatal fraternity, Krisiun, are on the cusp of releasing their latest full-length, but on which side of the hypothesis do they stand? Scourge of the Enthroned is the band’s eleventh album and, you know as well as I do that, no one can remember more than four of them.
Ironically, no one really listens to death metal for its capacity to innovate, despite the genre’s ability to do so. Krisiun are an ever-dependable member of the pantheon who bear the, admittedly, rare distinction of having never released a truly shit record. But just because it isn’t awful, doesn’t mean you’re on to a winner. Scourge of the Enthroned has all the band’s usual hallmarks: rapid-fire drumming, barked vocals and enough Hanneman riffage to summon the man himself back from beyond. The Kolesne brothers have been relentlessly releasing music for twenty-five years, and fans of the band’s last decade of material will enjoy the liberal lashing of this latest record. Mostly because the Equivalency is in full effect.
Riffs have always been the commodity in which bands like Krisiun trade, and Scourge of the Enthroned has plenty of them. Or rather it boasts a small handful, which are then ravenously dined out upon. Still building on the winning formula of Southern Storm, these Brazilians know how to crack the whip, focusing razor rays of thrash through a death metal prism. Opener, “Scourge of the Enthroned,” personifies this with a host of Vader-appropriate cyclical rhythms, accentuated with trilling modifications. The song flirts with a smattering of the imperiled nature inherent in the band’s untouchable first three records – fortunately, “A Thousand Graves” also carries the torch, allowing the omnipresent groove to occasionally spiral into savage swarms of reckless abandon.
The real point of interest comes early in the album, surpassing my expectations with “Demonic III.” Machine-gun staccato riffs segue into fluid chromatic chords for an effective neck-wrecker. Unfortunately, clearly pleased with the result, the band then proceeds to rinse and repeat for the rest of the album. Each following track borrows liberally from the song, and while it’s a strong source, the only thing worse than flogging a dead horse is flogging a live one to death. “Devouring Faith” and “Slay the Prophet” certainly make the most of their vampiric relationship with “Demonic III” but also entertain on their own merits. The latter even balances its intensity with brief instances of dark melody, which contrasts well with Alex Camargo’s dependable growls.
Having been fortunate enough to possess Scourge of the Enthroned for some time, I came to realize how situational the record is. When I was sat paying strict attention for sake of review, I rather enjoyed the riffs, but when I was even remotely occupied, much of the material tellingly blurs together. What the album does manage is a decent facsimile of Krisiun‘s once brimming kinetic delivery. The palpable aggression is thanks, in no small part, to the inexhaustible military rhythms of Max Kolesne. His drumming has always been the band’s most magnetic draw and this album is no exception, with a style full of deceptively varied fills, which sadly often go undetected beneath his air-tight blasting.
After ten years of relentlessly average records, Krisiun have finally made an album that at least has the same flavor as Southern Storm. But what Scourge of the Enthroned truly lacks is convincing songwriting, and after extensive listening, this becomes increasingly apparent. This is definitely the band’s best effort since 2008 and will probably get the job done in the gym, but is ultimately better considered as a primer of the quality clearly still available to this tumultuous trio. Hopefully the band will follow up in the near future with an offering that further Optimizes the formula with superior penmanship. Until then, decent, while encouraging, remains nothing more than decent.