Reaper – The Atonality of Flesh Review

It was just over one year ago that I wrote about mysterious Swedish duo Reaper and their debut record Unholy Nordic Noise. A viciously irreverent mixture of first-wave black metal, speed metal, and crusty HM-2-laden punk, the record saw the band going boldly where many bands had gone before and successfully delivering a short and sweet platter of simple, yet satisfying blasphemy. The disgustingly croaked vocals combined with the musical style to give me the impression of Abbath taking a bath with Bathory’s Bathory, and the resulting sound was as cathartic as it was entertaining. Well, these guys seem to believe that more is more, so they wasted no time in following the debut up with The Atonality of Flesh, a record that “transcends the tired first-album Bathory trope and approaches something akin to high art…and then defiles it, over and over again,” according to the promo blurb.1 Let’s put this promise to the test, shall we?

The two-minute “Intro” sets the tone for The Atonality of Flesh by telling the feel-good tale of the death of Robert-Fran├žois Damiens, the would-be assassin of King Louis XV. It recounts, in horrifyingly gruesome detail, the four-hour torture and execution that saw the failed assassin literally being disassembled piece by piece, while a bloodthirsty crowd stood by and watched. The track ends with the commentary “that was a festival, with which today’s festivals can’t compete” before the record begins in earnest with the punky black metal of “Dogs of the Crumbled Firmament.” It’s clear from the get-go that little has changed for Reaper, stylistically speaking, as the track harkens back to the days when black metal was really just NWoBHM tunes on high doses of Satan.

Single “Raid the Heavens” blasts through the pearly gates with a D-beat rhythm and an epic and speedy traditional metal riff bolstered by buzzsaw distortion. Verses with tortured leads flying above give way to choruses with anguished vocals, and the tortuous combo results in a killer track and an album highlight. The promo’s claim that “the orkish vokills spill even more gism all over one’s sanity and safety” holds true2, as evidenced by the epically croaked “fan the fucking fire!” found on “The Sweetness of the Wound.” Even some catchiness rears its head on “Come Nature, Come Cruelty, Come Death,” a track that makes me think of Bewitcher’s fantastic 2019 record, Under the Witching Cross. Overall, the songwriting on The Atonality of Flesh seems stronger, and the record is a blast to listen to front to black.

I picked some minor nits with the production on Unholy Nordic Noise, and while the production hasn’t changed much on The Atonality of Flesh, the mix seems more cohesive this time around. The raw, yet weighty sound seems tailor-made for this style of music and gives the 37-minute runtime a pleasingly old-school aesthetic. There are a couple of perfectly competent instrumentals in the form of “Nightguants” and “Saturn Devours,” but I’m not sure how necessary they are on such a short record, especially one already bookended by dedicated intro and outro tracks. Still, they do little to dampen the visceral experience that is The Atonality of Flesh. Standout tracks include “Raid the Heavens,” “Come Nature, Come Cruelty, Come Death,” and the Mark Z.approved “Piss, Bile, and Violence.”

Well, not a lot has changed in Reaper’s sick and twisted world since last year, but fans of their debut, and of punk-infused blackened speed in general, are highly encouraged to check out The Atonality of Flesh. Just make sure to wear your PPE. The violence could break out at any moment, and when it does, the bodily fluids are sure to fly.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Iron Bonehead Productions
Website: too kvlt for that shit
Releases Worldwide: March 5th, 2021

Show 2 footnotes

  1. This is, without a doubt, the single greatest promo blurb of all time BTW. – Steel
  2. Second greatest. – Steel
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