Stillbirth – Revive the Throne Review

Boasting one of the fattest rosters of death metal and its derivative sub-genres, Unique Leader Records stands out as one of the most single-minded purveyors of metal in existence. Following such numbers, I frequently find gaps in my knowledge within such a roster. Enter Germany’s Stillbirth and their sixth full-length entitled Revive the Throne. Despite this number of releases spanning back to 2003, they’re not a band who have previously featured in the thousands of bands reviewed at this website. 2020 has been a banner year for death metal, so how fares this album against such a backdrop?

Opening track, “Degraded to Mutilation,” kicks things off with a neck-snapping rhythm and big, slamming lead riff, replete with hardcore-inflected death gurgles which approach a pig squeal at moments. Accordingly, Revive the Throne is found at the intersection of brutal death metal, slam and deathcore. It’s the auditory equivalent of a rampaging bull, snorting and stamping the ground before charging headlong at any target in front. Returning fresh to the record after pauses demonstrates its immediate power and I’ve no doubt that Stillbirth would make for an energetic live show as they blend mid-paced grooves with faster, thrashing passages.

It’s perhaps surprising that behind the seemingly simplistic violence there are some particular but peculiar musical choices. The troupe features 2 guitarists and, more strangely, 2 bassists. The one sheet provided states that this is for “maximum brutality,” but I would describe this as “overkill brutality.” “Overkill” is probably not a descriptor they would object to too strongly given the blunt-force-trauma approach here. And there’s no doubt that the rhythmic elements of the record are thicker than cold treacle which was presumably the objective. But I think this derives more strongly from the powerhouse drummer who shreds up his kit across these 33 minutes, which calls into question the purpose of an additional bassist.

The theme of battle, or perhaps more specifically, the spectacle of battle is strongly apparent across Revive the Throne. The artwork obviously depicts a colosseum, while the bludgeoning music and liberal use of movie and TV quotation reinforces this imagery. Examples include, unsurprisingly, Gladiator, Spartacus and Game of Thrones and they’re typically well selected in bolstering the record’s tone. However, during my note-taking, I found myself writing more about the quotations than the music itself which was the first marker that the record is highly one-note. The flow of cultural references confers more character on the music which is somewhat lacking it.

On this point, the music is abrasive and pummeling but my attention is not held throughout. It’s an unfortunate example of the type of release which gets less interesting the closer you get to it. The heavy impact and deep grooves ensure that it’s always passable but the consistent riffing styles and tempos throughout make distinguishing tracks quite difficult. When listening closely, I struggled to parse favorite songs or passages, and I’m left with an overall sense that it’s adequate but lacks standout elements. The one-note feel is undoubtedly compounded by the high levels of compression in the master. This is hardly surprising as I’m fairly certain there’s a standard clause in Unique Leader’s contracts requiring releases to be brick-walled into oblivion. This robs any nuance from the guitars and ensures it’s tough to discern one riff from another.

I’ve no doubt there’s an audience for Stillbirth’s sound. It’s brutal, slamming and quick. Taken as a whole it’s not unenjoyable. But pausing to consider the record in greater detail does it no favors and highlights the overbearing similarity throughout. In a year replete with excellent death metal, Revive the Throne simply does not do enough to demand my time and energy.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Unique Leader Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: August 7th, 2020

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