Nothing gets me going like blackened thrash metal. The mere sight of a promising promo that places the words “black” and “thrash” together is enough to manifest a throbbing pillar of flesh in my britches, the sheer magnitude of which is rivaled only by the tower of Isengard. Belarus quartet Verwüstung take things a step further by describing their second album Gospel ov Fury as “a fucking firestorm of blackthrashing metal.” Jesus. Suddenly I need a cold shower and my room has transformed into a state that only GardensTale could properly describe. But talk is cheap (conveniently, so are Sani Wipes). Is Gospel a trve source of all that is blackened and unholy or was my excitement all for naught?
Verwüstung play blackened thrash that’s as no-frills as it comes. There are no acoustic intros, ambient interludes, or even very many guitar solos on this album. Likewise, the production is as plain as I’ve ever heard, with a clear sound that’s bereft of any studio tinkering. There’s not a hint of lo-fi fuzz and the guitar tone sounds like a practice amp that’s been cranked up and placed on the default “distortion” setting. The only exception to this plainness is the snare, which has a tinny sound of the sort you’d hear on a slam death album. In the spirit of Aura Noir, this is blackened thrash distilled to its very essence, a purified strain of the genre that lives and dies solely on the basis of its riffs and songwriting.
And oh, does it live. Opener “The Ashen Communion” is a smorgasbord of riffy goodness, kicking in with the sound of a cocking gun and commanding Morbid Angel chugs that soon transform into ragged thrash riffs and prickly blackened ascensions. Just when you think the song is going to peter out, it delivers one final thrashy burst that makes its seven minute runtime worth every second. “Hellfire Rock’n’Roll” shows Verwüstung aren’t afraid to have a little fun, working in a boogie rock melody that oozes sleaze and swagger. Even then the band don’t loose their extreme edge, as the rest of “Hellfire” is filled with ball-busting thrash and surprisingly chilly black metal riffs. Late highlights “Dissolution” and “Impulse to Kill” show the band using diverse rhythms to great effect, the former riding a punky gallop and the latter driving its predatory main riff with a faster pace.
Each of these nine tracks contain only a few riffs but the songwriting abstains from formulaic structures and as such Gospel remains entertaining across multiple listens. It helps that the riffs are distinct and offer plenty of crunchy moments that demand for heads to be banged. The vocalist stands out with a high garbled rasp that sounds like a more unintelligible version of Mark Howitzer from Gospel of the Horns. I’m not sure if I love his style, but it certainly fits well with the ferocity of the riffs. As for other quibbles, both “The Purge” and “The Ultimate Leveller” feature ideas that are a bit generic, even if “Purge” stands out for its energy and diving notes that remind me of Nifelheim. Fortunately closing instrumental “Unstoppable” is great and aptly-titled, with its thrashy onslaught scraping clean the battlefield like a giant mechanized deathbot that feeds off the flesh of the dying.
There’s something immensely refreshing about the lack of bullshit on Gospel ov Fury. The vanilla production, which might work against any other album, actually meshes surprisingly well with Verwüstung‘s approach. This is a band that I imagine simply plugs and plays, a group that takes stage and immediately blows your asshole to smithereens without spending half an hour fiddlefucking with their amps or bloating their set with spooky samples. Listening to this album, I imagine the band performing in a barren basement with plain walls and cement floors, and as such the nondescript production actually manages to conjure a surprisingly vivid atmosphere. The cutthroat songwriting and sheer venom of the riffs is enough to make this one of the best blackened thrash albums I’ve heard this year so far, and as such I encourage any fan of the genre to welcome this Gospel into their lives.