The overflowing embarrassment of death metal riches of 2018 was always going to be tough to follow when 2019 rolled around. Not that the year has been lacking in quality death metal, but for the most part the genre hasn’t blown me away. Perhaps an unheralded act is capable of stealing the show as the year winds down. Enter Greece’s Vultur, set to unleash their sophomore album, Drowned in Gangrenous Blood. Making it clear from the outset, Vultur is an uncompromising unit, hellbent on laying waste to the opposition through a steadfast commitment to the core values of death metal, where modern polish or quirks are dispensed for an oppressive sound that could loosely fall under the old Incantation-core or caverncore banners.
Armed with a charmingly gory album title, Vultur boasts a sound that steers well clear of flashy embellishments, while maintaining a raw and rugged aesthetic, riddled in filthy muck and topped with an ugly sonic platform courtesy of the stripped back, rough production values. Vultur hammer out grisly slabs of cavernous, rotten old school death, taking a no-frills approach with their riffy, doom-laden formula of destruction. Guttural vocals erupt over dense riffage and a cacophony of hack-sawing guitars and bludgeoning percussion. All the elements are in place for a good old blast of underground death, boasting an early ’90s deathly charm, featuring influences of various notable acts, such as Morbid Angel, Immolation, older Gorguts, and Autopsy.
When Vultur garnish their caveman clubbing delivery with flesh crawling slower passages and doomy beatdowns, such as the potent mid-section groove of “Return to Soil,” the material pops with a little more bite and menace to supplement the barrage of blasts, double bass and thrashier tempos. Opener “Groans of Excruciating Torture” is a barbaric early indicator of the Vultur experience, pure savagery and heart-on-sleeve death. However, the song struggles to maintain much traction in the memorability stakes. With its slow burning fuse, grotesque vocals and pummeling death-doom rumble, “High on Adrenochrome” finds a sweet balance between sinister atmosphere, catchy writing, and structural dynamics. Vultur‘s speedier forays have their strengths, though when they choose to mix up the tempos and embrace their crushing slower-to-mid-paced inclinations, the thunderous results are more compelling. This doesn’t quite occur as often as I’d like, but on songs like the aptly titled “Crushing the Ribcage,” Vultur sustain greater interest.
Vultur lean on the side of efficiency, cutting the album down to a lean 36 minutes and avoiding the tedious trait of tacking on unnecessary interludes or throwaway intro or outro tracks. Solid musicianship binds the band’s bludgeoning sound together, highlighted by some excellent bass playing. Fundamentally, there’s nothing especially wrong with the savagely feral sound Vultur have cultivated. The brutal, no-holds barred delivery is historically the kind of death metal I consume gleefully. Problem is, the material comes across a bit monotonous on occasions, particularly in the vocal and riff departments, and lacking in truly remarkable or catchy moments to warrant a more heartfelt recommendation. It’s unfortunate, as Vultur clearly possess the tools and ingredients to create a sizable rumble and impact, assuming they can harness their strengths into a more complete and consistently engaging package, evidenced on the handful of stronger cuts here.
Drowned in Gangrenous Blood is a solid album, not without its ragged charms. The raw brutality of the material, coupled with muddied sonic makeup and guttural execution, makes for an unvarnished and relentlessly punishing listen, featuring some noteworthy moments. Unfortunately the songwriting can’t quite match the band’s well placed intentions, resulting in a fun but disposable album that lacks the songwriting firepower to excel to more substantially gratifying levels.