Two and a half years ago I was struck by Stockholm’s latest entrant into the Swedish tomb of death metal, arising from a coffin with the name Lik carved into it. Their debut entitled Mass Funeral Evocation represents one of the finest old-school releases in the genre from the 2010s; it made my 2015 list and still packs a punch when I crave buzz-sawing guitars and a viscera-drenched aesthetic. Their sophomore release with the word Carnage etched on the front has now dropped and I’m delighted to report that it’s equally as savage and a worthy successor.
Carnage will come as no shock if you’re familiar with Mass Funeral Evocation; that is to say, it will come as no shock if you’re familiar with old-school, or old-school style, Swedish death metal in the vein of Dismember and Bloodbath. Lik dust off the ol’ HM-2 and accelerate through 36 minutes of rip-roaring Swedeath designed to get the head bouncing and the blood spraying. Despite this, there’s a definite melodic heart pumping these sawing riffs and savage lyrics around the body that is their sound. Hooks abound through both the guitar leads and the curiously intelligible vocals. If you pick up at any point in the album you’re never more than 3 seconds from the nearest guitar which will remind you why it’s the core of our great genre called heavy metal. The guitarists wield riff chain-guns, hosing the listener down with awesome licks. Nothing here is less than stellar but particular mention must go to “The Deranged” for its consistent riffing memorability and excellence. Solos are used surprisingly sparingly but their relative scarcity ensures that they are always accentuated through the mix. In all? This Is Swedeath.
I earlier mentioned the vocals. These also stand out on account of the sharp, humorous lyrics. I’ve seen them criticized for their ridiculousness elsewhere but they’re gratuitous and gruesome to the point of self-awareness. They’re exactly what I need to get through these balmy April and May days which are much too sunny. The choruses are embedding by the end of the first run and while they aren’t the sort of shit you would want someone on the bus to overhear, they’re very fun. “Dr. Duschanka” is particularly amusing, featuring such gems as “Burning sensation! Torment cock devastation! Burning sensation! Penile depth penetration!” When the mother of this lyricist told him that he could be anything he wanted, I’m unsure that what she had in mind was writing death metal about venereal diseases – but he ran with it.
Also noteworthy of these lyrics is that while they’re gory and aggressive, they don’t explicitly exact violence against women which is refreshing for extreme metal. The “molesting, raping, killing machiiiinnneee” described in “The Deranged” is apparently gender-neutral in his hunts, with the “screams of dismay” passage at 3:20 featuring a mix of male and female cries. Indeed, the eponymous Dr. Duschanka is a woman who appears to intentionally infect men with the aforementioned cock devastation. While this isn’t a stellar personal quality, it’s nice that both genders are shown to be vile here.
The only musical complaint I can level is that Carnage is, by design, incredibly derivative and completing lacking in innovation. It’s tough to argue that you haven’t heard this before and arguably heard it better. One disappointing departure from its influences is the relatively constrained master which also results in some listening fatigue towards the end of the record. At first I thought this fatigue may have been because the record is a touch long but I don’t think is truly the case as I couldn’t face culling any of these tracks. Nonetheless, these flaws feel insignificant in the face of the overwhelming majority which is immediate, razor-sharp and sufficiently varied to stave off boredom or repetition. The median is mid-paced death metal but the smattering of blasting introductions, chunky, slower grooves and Maiden-style, harmonized bridges frequently shift the tempo.
When considering such badassery in this execution and positivity in my reaction, you may justifiably question my score. Unless something truly magical is happening, I don’t feel able to award more highly to something which is so derivative (The Night Flight Orchestra would be an example of such magic). But it is impossible to dispute that this is a great record, much of which is very easy to love. If you want some old-school death metal, pop this shit on and revel. A warning: we will not accept responsibility for the murderous spree on which you’ll inevitably embark wielding a manic grin (and machete).