Undergang – Aldrig i livet Review

Back in 2011 when Indhentet Af Døden dropped, Undergang got onto my radar because they were described as a mix of Obituary and Demilich, which is obviously a winning combination. I couldn’t wait to get my grubby mitts on that record, and when I did, they got even grubbier because Undergang plays filthy, sewer-dwelling death metal exclusively. Since new Undergang is our focus and it’s not 3AM in the Big Apple, we’re not leaving the sewer; we’re going into its dirtiest depths and getting grimy with Aldrig i livet instead.

I liked that shorthand description I was given of Undergang nearly one decade ago, but upon reflection it’s somewhat incomplete. Undergang is indeed a celebration of sewage, taking a heaping scoop, throwing it at a wall, and keeping the grossest things which stick. Fans of classic death metal will hear early Obituary (the first two albums), early Autopsy (the first two albums), Rottrevore, and a bit of Symphonies of Sickness. The Finnish influence here comes largely from Abhorrence, as Undergang employ their own version of Vulgar Necrolatry’s peculiar Finnish melodicism to help capture the sound of an unknown…thing slithering by you in the opaque sewage, but also take the odd cue from Demilich here as well. After two increasingly lengthier and doom-focused records following their debut, Undergang released Misantropologi, their shortest LP to date, where they ratcheted the early Carcass influence up to eleven and streamlined their songwriting. It was an interesting approach, but it didn’t really stick to my ribs the way their first two did, but there was certainly potential in that musical direction.

I’ll get right to it: Aldrig i livet actualizes that potential and this new disgusting brew sticks something fierce. Songs are more compellingly composed than anything these guys have put out since their debut, and they’ve essentially recaptured that unbridled creativity from 2011 and brought it into 2020 with their various influences and compositional experiments in the intervening years intact. The anything-goes creative spirit of Mental Funeral is done in marvelous fashion, with “Spontan bakteriel selvantændelse” being a minute long and sounding like Undergang successfully writing something like “Bonesaw” in their own style (and with vocals). “Indtørret” has an “In the Grip of Winter” type break, but what comes after is an extended lead and disgusting vocals which sound like an extension of that indecipherable burbling about forty seconds into “Ruptured in Purulence.” What sounds like a sly reference to Obituary’s “Cause of Death” kicks off “Ufrivillig donation af vitale organer” and Undergang drags it deeper down into the murk via Autopsy, Disma, and Abhorrence. It’s murky, punishing stuff that never gets bogged down in mindless chuggery.

I have difficulty finding much to dislike here. At under forty minutes, Aldrig i livet doesn’t stick around nearly long enough to wear out its welcome. The overall sound reminds me of Disma’s indispensable Towards the Megalith, with a chunky, visceral production job. It sounds big, sludgy, and grimy, which is exactly what Undergang’s music calls for. The bass burbles beneath the thick guitars in an immensely satisfying fashion, and the drums and vocals have an almost “wet” sound to them – it’s gross in all the right ways. The lows are almost belched out a la Demilich, and the highs are choked out like old Carcass. The combination of these vocal styles makes monstrous the buildup to an unfairly huge riff in “Usømmelig omgang med lig” and perfectly placed “ugh” drives it home with proper force.

What makes Aldrig i livet such a success is its marriage between a great aesthetic and great songs. Undergang hasn’t put these two elements together so successfully since their debut, and the key may lie in the use of more weird Finnish-style melodies, which itself may be due to the addition of a second guitarist to the ranks which allows for plenty of interplay and a greater emphasis on leads. “Rødt dødt kød” has one such sparse and tortured lead over a trudging, funereal riff in its verse, and this adds tremendously to the atmosphere. The atmosphere is the swampy, gory, and earnest death metal of old, which reminds by analogy of classic horror and its use of practical effects instead of CGI. Aldrig i livet is like old, campy, gory horror set to music, meaning it’s not for everyone; but if you’re among those of us searching for some grisly, grimy, sewage-soaked death metal, take notice of what’s slowly rotting in the state of Denmark immediately.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Dark Descent Records
Websites: undergang.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/undergangktdm
Releases Worldwide: December 4th, 2020

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