Unmerciful – Wrath Encompassed Review

Willowtip Records and me go a long way back. In the early days of the label, Jason Tipton could seemingly do little wrong, assembling a stunning roster of cutting edge extreme bands, showcasing a varied strain of extreme metal, sharing threads of innovation, uniqueness and technicality in line with the label’s motto; forward thinking metal. The label broadened my horizons in the earlier years of my love of extreme metal. Some 20 years later Willowtip still boasts a formidable roster of killer bands. So when I stumbled across a death metal release with the Willowtip tag attached, I was quick to pounce. Kansas enforcers Unmerciful have been lurking in the underground for a number of years, unloading their third album Wrath Encompassed. Without a previous reference point to bounce off, I delved into Unmerciful‘s cocoon of brutality.

It’s evident from the outset that Unmerciful pull no punches. Wrath Encompassed is a ferociously brutal affair, featuring top notch musicianship, relentless pacing and raw boned aggression. Traces of Origin and Suffocation infiltrate the band’s hardened exterior, while occasional beams of blackened energy ripple through the maelstrom. Purely on execution and commitment to the cause, Unmerciful succeed in their mission of bludgeoning the listener with tightly performed, endlessly aggressive brutal death, featuring an impressive technical bent. Nitro-fueled blast fests are the order of the day, as spidery fretwork, relentlessly pummeling and technical drumming, mid-ranged brutal and occasionally blackened vox, and harsh, dissonant textures coalesce into a furnace blasting shot of adrenaline.

Rarely have song titles on an album proved as fitting as those comprising Wrath Encompassed. From the powerhouse, blackened death intensity of opener, “The Incineration,” to the violently propulsive throes of “Furious Precision,” and skull rattling crunch of “Carnage Unleashed.” The material is executed with a high standard of technical precision and refined musicianship within a bludgeoning, no-nonsense framework. It’s always refreshing to hear genuine technicality without unnecessary or overdone flash. Unmerciful certainly fit securely in the realms of brutal death, never letting their skills overshadow their off the bone aggression. The percussive fury and technical handiwork of drummer Trynt Kelly demands attention, though the rest of Unmerciful hold their own in the instrumental stakes, including the prominent basslines of Jeremy Turner. Elsewhere, there’s some tasty soloing and unhinged dissonance piercing through the chaotic arrangements, though riffs generally struggle to lodge in the memory bank.

Unfortunately, despite the admirably sustained display of skin-flaying aggression, technical prowess, and obvious passion behind the delivery, Wrath Encompassed falls short in the songwriting department. There’s certainly some interesting ideas at play, evidenced during the album’s more noteworthy moments and technical complexity, but the shortage of truly memorable songs and remarkable riffs, coupled with a nagging lack of dynamics, detracts from the obvious potential within. When Unmerciful provide some breathing room and variety, such as the well proportioned balance harnessed on closer “Inexorable Decay,” Unmerciful‘s talents come to the fore. Sadly, they don’t deliver consistently enough across the board to warrant a heartier recommendation, with monotony and blurring between the songs unfortunate elements.

While there are aspects of the album I can’t fault, overall, Unmerciful failed to leave a strong impression. It’s by no means a bad album, but with a slew of quality death metal albums already upon us in 2020, including recently unleashed imposing slabs of brutality from Ulcerate, Afterbirth and Black Curse, Wrath Encompassed doesn’t quite hit the mark. The album’s full throttle attack and concentrated aggression is impressively maintained, yet the deficiencies present on Wrath Encompassed unfavorably balances out the album’s more notable attributes.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Willowtip Records
Websites: unmerciful.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/officialunmerciful
Releases Worldwide:
April 24th, 2020

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