Soulrot – Victims of Spiritual Warfare Review

By the time you’re an adult you’ve made many life choices and traveled many paths. Some you regret, some you embrace. Entombed’s legendary Left Hand Path is one of my personal favorites, and 30 years after its release, the legacy of its singular sound lives on. Chile’s Soulrot are big fans of that particular path, and sophomore album Victims of Spiritual Warfare is a loving stroll down the well-trod byway now known as Swedeath. More of a homage than an effort to revitalize or reinvent the Left Hand Path experience, most of the songs here could easily be mistaken for outtakes or long lost bonus cuts from that infamous 1990 recording session. The guitars buzz and rasp and the vocals are nearly an exact replication of L.G. Petrov’s delivery. If Soulrot wanted to write a fanfic of the immortal Entombed debut, all I can say is, mission accomplished.

Considering you’ve heard this exact approach a zillion times, Soulrot deserve at least some props for making it sound as lively and dangerous as they do. Cuts like “Nihilistic Automata” roar and rant with that same desperate chaos Entombed trapped in a bottle back in the day and for a few brief moments, you can get swept up in the excitement of it all just like you did the first time you heard this style. The band wrings every last ounce of buzz and fuzz out of their HM-2 pedals as the album progresses, with “I, Master” slowing to a rock-powdering mid-tempo grind, getting nasty and noisome with intermittent spikes of blasty madness to keep you off balance. It’s undeniably good stuff though it possesses nary a whiff of originality. “Perpetual Warfare” is a short, savage, slightly punky dose of death with a simple but crushing groove that’s hard to resist. It’s over before it really gets going and leaves you wanting more, so it’s a win. “Deceiving Tyranny Manifesto” (huh?) toys with rudimentary Bolt Thrower riffs and these offer a welcome respite from the Sunlight Studio-isms while providing the song with an extra punch.

My favorite cut is “What Destroys You, Makes Us Strong” because of its weird, off-kilter riffs which stand apart from the usual d-beaty tropes. This shows Soulrot is at least willing to try something different, if only infrequently. The song winds out with an absolutely mammoth stomping riff which I love, and it hints that these gents are capable of much more than they show here. The remainder of Victims swings between stock standard Swedeath and respectable examples of the same. The trio know their way around this style so no cut feels completely disposable, but a handful certainly feel generic. At just shy of 40 minutes, the album feels longer than it should considering most songs are short and sweet, between 2-3 minutes with only one track making it to the 5 minute mark. If they excised a few of the standard issue cuts, this would be a much more potent ass pummeling.

Guitarist JL Olmos clearly earned his degree at HM University and his riffs largely conform to the early works of Entombed and Dismember. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, and he does a fine job, but it’s the few times when he goes beyond this to attempt more interesting, angular leads that make my ears perk up. I also enjoy when he slows thing down to crushing grooves and really tries to rattle teeth and tibia. As mentioned, Jacob Wilschrey is a very dead ringer for L.G. Petrov. So much so he could go back in time and record the vocals for Left Hand Path and we’d be none the wiser. Naturally he fits this material like a bloody rubber glove. This is a talented trio all around.

It’s clear Soulrot can nail this specific style of death metal, yet I’m left with the impression they’re capable of much more than endless retoolings of classic Swedeath platters. Whether they’re interested in more is a whole other story. Victims is a chaotic 100 M.P.H. take on a beloved sound, and if you want more Left Hand Path in your life, this will pay dividends. I wanted just a little more than that, but I’m still left a believer in the band. Happy trails!

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Memento Mori
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: July 27th, 2020

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