I thought I was done writing about 2019 records, so when this one fell into my lap from on high, I was rather surprised and excited. This year saw me wading into old school death metal territory far more often than ever before, so I thought it wise to enlist the help of a guide for such a perilous journey. Before heading out, I asked our resident Professor of Iron Arts, Ferrous Beuller, to give me some homework, so I could fill in my knowledge gaps in the field of OSDM. I must admit that aside from a few selected offerings, my Florida death metal game has been rather weak up to this point, but as I slowly work my way through my Syllabus of Death, I’ve already found some gems. Two of my favorites are Obituary‘s Cause of Death and Malevolent Creation‘s Retribution, and as I listen to Verthebral‘s second full-length, Abysmal Decay, I have to believe that this band of Paraguayans would probably agree with my choices.
Oozing with OSDM goodness, Abysmal Decay is 41 minutes of savory riffs, excellent leads, and as Ferrous so eloquently put it, “it’s percussive as fuck.” Verthrebral wastes no time in introducing you to this formula as opener “Ancient Legion” blasts straight into a worming riff accentuated by, nay, pulverized by pounding drums. The track momentarily drops into a nasty groove before the vocals storm in and you’re instantly transported to Florida circa 1991 (aside from the massively loud production here, that is). Embedded single “The Art of Perversion” is truly a malevolent creation with its furious riffing, a disturbing sample, and the momentous reemergence of the guitars after said sample. The other two singles “Abysmal Decay” and “Isolation Room” follow, the former with some mid-paced menace and a couple of great solos and the latter with a thrash metal attitude. At this point, Abysmal Decay is cruising with momentum and things won’t slow down for a while.
But things only get better once they do. “Obsidian Tears” is a timely respite of classical guitar, and its subdued beauty is the perfect introduction to the penultimate track, an absolute monster that it is album highlight “My Dark Existence.” A relatively simple track, “My Dark Existence” chugs with the power of Death‘s “Pull the Plug,” and the groove is so mighty that I couldn’t help but bang my head between heaves as I knelt in front of my toilet with food poisoning this past week. My existence felt quite dark as I lost 10 pounds in 12 hours that day, but this track almost singlehandedly kept me from begging my wife to pull the plug on me. The record finishes strongly with “Testimony of Hate,” another song that channels Death, this time in the form of some angular riffing a la Human, without straying too far from Verthebral‘s groovy base.
Overall, it’s an extremely solid performance, but guitarists Daniel Larroza and Alberto Flores win best in show honors for their riffs and absolutely blistering classic metal leads. There are some absolutely smoking solos on here, and they elevate Verthebral from “just another good OSDM band” territory. I’ve briefly mentioned that the production is super loud. There’s a lack of dynamics here and the drums are probably too loud in the mix, but none of this has diminished my enjoyment of the music one bit. The record would probably feel a bit stronger with one of the middle cuts removed to bring the runtime down into the 30s, but they’re all pretty solid and I’m not even sure which one I could do without. Standouts here are “The Art of Perversion,” “Abysmal Decay,” “My Dark Existence,” and “Testimony of Hate.”
It’s not always a good thing when a new record brings to mind all-time genre classics like Cause of Death and Retribution, but Verthebral attacks their chosen style with vigor, ability, and songwriting skill, allowing Abysmal Decay to stand strongly on its own without feeling derivative. If you’ve been naughty enough this year,
Satan Santa1 just might drop this nugget of OSDM coal into your pathetic stocking.
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
Websites: verthebraldeath.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/verthebralofficial
Releases Worldwide: December 27th, 2019