Something’s rotten (and festering) in Italy

I can’t certainly be identified as someone who blindly followed and supported bands from my country over the years, and I might say it with pride. On the contrary I have been often accused of hating Italian bands by default which might be not entirely incorrect. I do believe Italian bands on the average sucked amazingly during the nineties with just a short lived moment across the millennium when we had some interesting things going on. 90% of what I heard however in about 30 years is pure garbage, mostly composed of bands obsessed with technical Death-like riffing, usually self described as Thrash/Death but actually being just sloppy second rate, unimaginative thrash metal with stellar overproduction and a lot of ego. The last 10 years or so, however, basically the decade after I closed my old shop and drifted away from everything related to music, things got REALLY interesting. Possibly lead by a couple of dedicated individuals a whole layer of rot started to fester over the plastic post-Meshuggah shit mountain that the Italian “scene” had become. Is it just a new trend? Yes, probably. For some of these these might prove that to be true. Do I care? Hell no. Let this shit come over since it really looks like a new Renaissance to me. No, not exactly a Renaissance, that would imply a glorious past, which my country NEVER had except for VERY few bands. No this is really the real shit we were supposed to play in the early 90’s, we’re just 20 years late.

I will certainly forget about a lot of bands, some on purpose. I won’t list “Brutal Death” or Black Metal or Grind/Death, but just the sickest, darker more traditional sounding Death Metal shit I have been enjoying and discovering lately.

Funest

Funest

Funest is a relatively new band which recently had their 2014 Memento Mori album on vinyl repressed on Morbid Generation (boy what a horrible name is that for a label, right short of Brutal Bands). Their sound is massively Swedish, kinda old Grave with a crisper production and reminds me VERY much of the first Bloodbath EP in more than one aspect. Great vocals, great riffs, great sounds. Their album is just a must have.

Into Darkness

Into Darkness

Into Darkness is not just the title of one of the greatest Death Doom recordings ever, but also a relatively new Death Metal band from Como with a rather sparse discography. Their sound is definitely less Swedish and has strong references to Asphyx and has that kind of half-desperate, half-agonizing, half-hateful (yep that makes 150%) vocal style which is typical of Asphyx/Pestilence and Morgoth. I like their more minimalistic approach to Death Metal, just grab take some good riffs and start munching, no fillers. Like said before their releases are few and sparse, but I think everything is easily available.

Gravesite

Gravesite

Gravesite’s an highly interesting and also rather new band from my city and neighbors that inherited a great part of its sound and members from the troubled yet decently successful Undead Creep. Gravesite also rests in the moldy chamber of older-sounding Death Metal with a mix of sonorities closer to the American southern coasts ranging from earlier Death to Massacre with some faint reminiscences of crust in between. They released a full length on Xtreem last year but I feel like recommending their previous demo tape as well, where the double vocals were ever more distinct and the sound a bit darker. Good stuff.

Assumption

Assumption

They might be catalogued as Death/Doom but I would just say Assumption is really just straight backed Death Metal at its best and probably in my top 5 list bands from Italy today. They’re not more Death/Doom than Incantation, so to speak. Apparition’s only EP is just four tracks (still runs longer than Reign in Blood) but it’s just flawless. Minimalist structures, no filler riffs, Mortician-like zombie vocals, and that tiny pinch of harmonies that is just like that white pepper in the batter for fried chicken, or the stem of vanilla in whipped cream. This is for lovers of the Finnish darker side of Death Metal. Top quality here too.

Profanal

Profanal

Remember when the most Swedish-sounding band around was Fleshcrawl which was not even a Swedish band? Profanal discovered the same fountain of youth rot that defies borders with the dedication of a Syrian immigrant. They manage to sound just like a band from Nicola Costantini’s fetish books and, while in the past the similarities with early Dismember sometimes just overlapped a bit too much, their upcoming “Supreme Fire” really sounds like all weak spots have been addressed. Contaminations from all the cult classics are here, including some early Necrophobic, but the mix is just evenly balanced. It is really one of the best albums I have heard in 2016 even though lampredotto is still nowhere to be seen, mister.

Morbus Grave

Morbus Grave

Formed this very year Morbus Grave is probably the youngest band of this report, but features members of Sepulcral, Funest and Into Darkness. Still another nail haling from the land of fog and panetùn ready for the vacant coffin of OSDM. To be completely honest the band still sounds a bit unripe to me, I like them in general but they just don’t have anything that clicks incompletely yet. No killer riff, dark but not too much and so on, you get it. Possibly the most interesting element in the demo are Erman’s vocals, eerie and malignant and with a barely perceivable accent just like Angelripper on “In The Sign Of Evil”.

As far as I know the band only released one demo so far and moreover that one is also limited to only 200 copies on our inexorable and inoxidizable Unholy Domain recordings so it might not be so easy to obtain in the future BUT we shall take into account that they have a track on Youtube for listening and the fact that people just don’t buy anything anymore (me included sadly but I have already done my homeworks in the past so fuck off that’s another story) so 200 might as well be the right number.

Voids Of Vomit

Voids of Vomit

The band might not have an impressive array of releases despite being over a decade old now, yet they might be considered one of the cornerstones in the new renaissance of our beloved Metal of Death in this shitty peninsula. Necrovore and Sadistic Intent aptly demonstrated in the past how releasing one full-length a year doesn’t necessarily means quality – just saying. Truth be told, all Voids releases have a slightly different feel, from the messy 2006 debut to the latest 2016 promo on Unholy Domain, even though there are at least two common recurring elements: a massive, ultra-down tuned sound (which might be the reason Asphyx come up so often in their reviews) and the eerie feel of the lyrics, which are generally made of short one liners and deal about things dark and creepy hidden beyond our veil of conscience. Things might have changed a bit on the last tape however as I think* the theme shifted a bit on the topics of ancestry and blood valor. Nevertheless the sound is till there: massive vocals, massive riffs and that general feel of decrepitude.

*haven’t read them, just judging by the titles.

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Hateful

Hateful might be the only band in this list together with Valgrind that has roots back in the nineties. They are also the less “plain old school tribute” of them all as well so it barely fits this list. We all love the sound of the early 90’s when the genre was fresh but Hateful just don’t grab full hands and build their sound upon influences, preferring to go entirely personal, a choice which definitely doesn’t follow the market, preferring to create a corner of its own. We can certainly grab a couple of technical Death Metal bands from Florida and make some comparisons now but I think the elements that make Hateful what it is cannot be easily identified. The songs are pure Death Metal, crisp and technical without sounding scholastic, chock full of tempo changes and variations without being another brick in the Unique Leader pyramid. If I had to choose three words to describe the band those would be drive, honesty and inspiration. Their second full length was released in 2013.

Valgrind

Valgrind

Earlier this year Valgrind released their second full length album, and boy it’s a devastating piece of Morbid Angel-influenced traditional Death Metal with paired guitars that contort and twist like snakes. Not so many bands use this many solos and riffs in their songs without sounding one of those Willowtip shitty bands with sideburns. Valgrind plays neat, quintessential Death Metal with some serious guitarwork, Another hit from Lord of the Flies that seems unstoppable. Go for it believe me.
Morbo

Morbo

Hailing from Rome Morbo is a tribute to the old school, putrid sound of Autopsy performed by musicians already active on other bands like notably Corpsefucking Art. They recently released a split Ep with Bunker 66 (which I haven’t heard) and yes, they’re actually quite good. They have all the good elements of the more punkish, rawer part of Autopsy including the classic tremolos, phlegmy vocals, mid tempo accelerations and so on. Being a huge fan of the band myself I can’t but recommend to hear this. The vocalist does a particularly good job in my opinion.

Hellish God

Hellish God

Another extremely recent band formed this year that offers a brand of Death Metal that you just don’t hear so often: kinda Deicide meets South American brutality. Think of bands like Throneaeon and Centurian and mix the sound with Ophiolatry and Fornication. The satanic aspect is exploited in full including the double vocals that recreate the feeling of being present at an exorcism. Needless to say, once more Lord Of The Flies is the way to go. To be honest I am not 100% into it all of the time, but we have a solid ground to work on. We wll see.Presumed Dead

Presumed Dead

I’ll make a bold statement here but I believe this is potentially the most interesting band in Italy right now. Presumed Dead from Treviso might be young, might be somehow untight, hell they might even lose control sometimes, but they have IT, which is something I seldom say anymore. They don’t have IT all the time, but when they do, they hit the G spot hard. I heard once them saying they sounded a bit like Grotesque and well. It’s true, they do. Add Kaamos, Pentagram, Revenant and something else in that vein in the mix and you might get an idea of their guitarcentric approach to Death Metal. I really feel like we haven’t seen anything yet, which is confirmed by the fact they have released just two split EPs so far, a total of 8 songs in 3 years.

Necro

Necro

I can’t forget to mention Necro even though I admit I bought their full length from 2012 (their last release) and I wasn’t particularly blown away. Maybe the expectations were too high according to the promotion that mentioned Impetigo, Repulsion, Autopsy and so on. Certainly the band from Como plays some decrepit sounding mid tempo Death Metal, but just lacks entirely of the sickness and nauseating feel of the band mentioned before. I think the band was trying to do what Cadaveric Incubator from Finland is doing brilliantly, but just ends up sounding a bit dull and boring in the long run.

SepolcroSepolcro 

Verona based Sepolcro is an interesting band. In their innocent simplicity they might be the most genuinely 90’s sounding of the whole lot I listed so far. I particularly dig the vocal style, which has that feeling of coming from beyond the grave which is often absent these days, in particular when paired with that marked Italian accent. They play some very simple, mid tempo Death Metal that just feels like some demo tape I could have found my mailbox when Death Metal was fresh and vibrant. Nothing incredibly innovative again but definitely 100% authentic which is a big thumb up coming from the Crypt of Pus and Gore that is Nuclear Abominations. Great sound too on their split with Presumed Dead.

Cimitero

Cimitero

Another band from Como Cimitero is maybe a name that doesn’t come up as often but they’re not terrible at all. They sound sometimes a bit uneven, like a patchwork of different styles but often you actually hear something good in the mix. Full albums are free to hear on streaming (last one from 2012).

Haemophagus

Haemophagus

Another cornerstone of the NRoITDM (New Renaissance of Italian Death Metal) is obviously Haemophagus, a voracious, hyperactive and hyper-productive band with a long list of releases that include two full-length albums and a big compilation released earlier this year on Despise The Sun. After 12 years of intense activity Haemophagus are so well ingrained that their sound is solidly defined and doesn’t just sound like a mix of other band material blended together, it’s just Haemophagus with all its twists. I personally dislike the 70’s guitar leaks that sometimes head into the songs, but generally speaking every release they ever made is good. Even the lyrics are great stuff, all of them based on gore topics in pure Autopsy style. These guys are pros and you can’t really go wrong with them.

ASCENDED (Fin): “The Art Of Necromancy” demo Cd-r 2008 s/p

Ascended - The Art Of Necromancy

There was a time, in the first part of the nineties, when I was totally obsessed with Finnish Death + Black Metal. Of course Sweden had THE scene, but bands like Purtenance, Archgoat, Demilich, Xysma or Depravity (and I can go on forever) had that special, unearthly feel that just took the most extreme genres and made each one of them even colder and darker. Finland just meant “sickness” in its most undiluted form, blacker Black Metal and darker Death Metal. Time went on and basically every one of these bands either disbanded or turned into some shitty rockn’roll a la Lubricant. Time to forget about Finland for a while… but like the Swedish scene has been resurrected, so seem the Finnish one has its good share of new talent to exhume, and this Ascended is really among the best ones I heard in a long, long time. Like for other old demos on the blogzine, Ascended actually recorded more stuff after this demo, but having been mostly an inactive couch potato for more than 5 years it was a great surprise for me to hear we have still great death/doom being concocted among the cold swamps of Fennoscandia. This excellent demo Cd-r was handnumbered to 100 copies but mine has no number so I guess is part of a second batch. The packaging is bare as it should be with classical lineart on the cover and very simple inlay (lyrics, general infos and so on).

The thing I love more about this demo is the sound of the drums. They reverberates like a gong, filling the whole soundwave with a distant, omnipresent, evocative vibe. Every beat seems to raise the atmosphere to the next level of dismal oblivion. The band is VERY different, but I can find some common feel with, early Eucharist or Necros Christos on the slower, more abstract, detached  moments.  Ascended is however not an entirely Death Metal band and there are no melodies of sort in their sound. I think they can arguably be defined as Death Metal with some good Doom/Death influences, but I don’t think they can be rated as a strictly Death/Doom band either. They are grinding slow at times, and almost obsessive in dragging riffs forever in an hypnotic way, but I will not use any other term but good, solid Death Metal. The vocals are deep and monumental, just like the music. This demo is a cathedral of sound, with an obscure halo hovering over it.

Thanks Finland for still being present.

NAUSEANT (Swe): “ILN” demo Cd-r 2009 s/p

Nauseant ILN

Now this is finally something really interesting. There’s this dissonant, progressive-schizoid aspect in Stockholm’s Nauseant that is really something we don’t hear every day. We’re not talking about some shredding guitar display or some crossover incursion into Jazz or some other irrelevant genre, but about really atonal Death Metal in the vein of Demilich, Carbonized or the more recent Diskord. I really do like when a band has the courage to attempt a trip into these indistinct lands of intricate melodies, always turning and weaving and morphing into another identity. And I like it even more when the sound remains strongly rooted in dismal Death Metal – for being indistinct and avant-garde doesn’t necessarily mean sewing together a million different genres. Nauseant is ever-changing, ever reshaping, but still maintain identity in its sound and feel, with hyper-guttural vocals as a static basement over which the song is shaped. I cannot tell much about the lyrics since they’re not included here (but hey, it was cool to read my copy is one of 30 hand-numbered Cd-rs!). The packaging is bare and essential, just a warped abstract column of flesh with a logo close to it, the kind of bare necessary I appreciate in a demo tape Cd-r. I cannot recommend this one enough, I would like to hear more bands like this.

ABHORROT (Aut): “Death In Blasphemy” demo Cd-r 2008 s/p

Abhorrot - Death In BlasphemyI just wanted to skip on the countless useless promos and dug up the ones I enjoyed the most. Abhorrot is a band that just did it right (according to my own vision of this stuff that is) on this demo. Basically EVERYTHING is right here, and I will start with the amazing sounding name (I bet they were Finnish ah ah!), killer logo, great sketched artwork. I am one of the ones that got this on CDr which is cool, even though this is definitely tape stuff (I read some of these demos came out on tape too), I admit I would really like every single Death Metal demo came out this way, no frills shitty art, dripping logo and rough paper, nothing else. There is no real booklet but the other side of the cover keeps it old school: typewriter fonts, impossibly dark picture, and a scattering of song titles like “DIE IN PAIN”. Now I’d like to give a Nobel prize to any band that comes out with a title like this, I am serious. And then you have “Eternal Decay” and “Death in Blasphemy” which are equally ultimate Death Metal titles as well. And let’s not forget the Nihlist cover.

Being recorded in some place called “The Cellar” you cannot really expect Morrisound, can you? Here it is: pure cellar sound, and I believe they’re talking about a REAL cellar, not some studio with a cool name. The sound is as fuzzy and degenerated as you can imagine, and the rehearsal sound is just a perfect fit for the incredibly basic riffing we have here, it’s like some extremely early Death Metal recording from 1990 with guttural growls and a slightly drone metallic sound. Of course I do not  think a band should end his path here since a little bit of structure is mandatory even in Death Metal but what I liked is that I was n0t able to hear anything so refreshingly primal for many years. The band subsequently released some more stuff so the sound here is probably not even fairly indicative of their latest efforts but it is a nice demo to hear in a time where 13-years old freaks are able to blast 10000 bps hyper-technical riffs. Nice addition for a complete DM collection: guttural vocals, primitive riffing, sloppy (in a cool way) drumming and so on, just as it was.

PROFANAL (Ita): “Black Chaos” full-length Cd 2012 Iron Tyrant

Profanal Black ChaosHere it is, we finally delivered. One stays out of the local scene (please don’t start bitching about the use of the word “scene” if you can find another, less sabotaged term to describe a collection of bands playing extreme music within the boundaries of the same country, it’s your problem, not mine) for a decade and when you’re back you suddenly realize your country has produced more great releases in a year than the decade before you started drifting abroad. So this is it: my country is now able to release stuff like this monumental piece of Metal of Death that could as well being recorded in some cheap studios in 1990, with that acrid, crushing sound that was typical of that time (and broadly exploited in books like “Swedish Death Metal” and “Encyclopedia of Svensk Dodsmetall”), by  skinny teenagers dressed in checkered plaid shirts.

Let’s start from the very beginning, though. The packaging is quite nice: we have a tentacled Lovecraftian monster of Seagravean symmetry on cover, and we know that tentacles are very high in the scale of Death Metal subjects. It’s maybe a little bit cartoonish, but I certainly praise the choice of a black and white layout. Hell, you could not go wrong with lineart black and white. Well you can, actually, but this is not the case. Two big surprises await me as I open the booklet. It is 8 pages long (wow, no shitty folding leaflets this time?), and has LYRICS inside. Lyrics, for fuck’s sake, sounds like ages since I read any good ones. The writing may not be the best I have ever read, and sometimes the grammar is not entirely correct or elegant, but here we have DEATH METAL lyrics about suffering, death, grief, zombies, demons – themes that should always be in a Death Metal album. Fuck yes. Thank you, thank you very much.

Soundwise, there is very little to say here, but that is far, far from being a complaint. I might go digging some obscure reference for names of Swedish rehearsal bands of the early nineties, but I suppose Dismember are the greatest and most blatant influence here. I’d dare to go into little more detail and say their sound is a mix of ALL the Dismembers of all eras and not just the early ones (oh and excluding that tragic album I won’t name with the space marine on cover, of course). The uncompromising brutality of Grave is certainly another fitting element of description, as is Carnage‘s hyper-loose riffing and decrepit sound. If I was to play in a band today, I would play this shit, I have no doubts about this. Profanal (which does not stand for Professor Anal if you ask, that might be their pornogrind side project) love real Death Metal and play Death Metal. Swedish Death precisely. They play it with no frills and not a single iota out of place. Metallic, distorted chords with anguishing screams and a bucket of rotten blood smeared all over.

Color me impressed, this is one of the best Death Metal bands we have in this country right now.