Deathstench – Massed in Black Shadow CD Black Plagve 2012
Deathstench are a new signing to Black Plagve (Malignant Record’s ‘bastard child’ side label), and being my first introduction to the group it appears this Californian duo has been active since 2009 and already have a couple of extremely limited releases under their belt (a split, an EP and a full length). ‘Massed in Black Shadow’ is their sophomore album and their first more widely available release.
Before we get to the music, based on the artwork and visual presentation it very much screams underground black/ death metal, yet this initial perception belies the actual ‘music’ to be found herein. This in fact is not a death / black metal release, rather it aims at a black industrial sound which heavily borrows aesthetically and sonically from the black/ death metal spheres. From this perspective Deathstench can be viewed as a crossover act which straddles genres and merges aspects of death/ black metal and black industrial / ritual noise styles. This ‘crossover’ perception is further solidified by the fact that the group are listed on the Encyclopaedia Metallum: Metal Archives web resource (…typically only metal or metal related bands are listed).
The inky sonic blackness and distorted echoed roar of ‘Extract Ex Infernis’ introduces proceedings and sets the scene. Here bass heavy and cavernous death industrial loops provide a semblance of structure, whilst vocals evocations are recited amongst the backdrop of brooding menace – but rather than resembling anything remotely human, here the vocals are relegated to almost outbursts of distortion. ‘Corpse Upon a Throne of Worms’ opts for a more sinister death ambient vibe, which provides the backbone for slow strummed distorted guitars and course black metal vocals, thus demonstrating the knack of the project to merge the tonal elements of differing genres. The sound of Sunn O)))’s Black One album (aka black metal inspired doom drone) is a suitable reference point here, although the guitar playing is slightly more animated (…which is hardly a difficult task based on the catatonic pace of Sunn 0)))). On the gritty and windswept ‘Symbols In Warm Flesh’ an overloaded bass guitar appears to sit prominently within the mix, but rather than being riff based the playing is abstract and forms a nasty distortion/ feedback layer. Moving on to the pair of back to back tracks ‘Circle of Black Blood’ and ‘Shrine of Viscera’, a more structured ‘metal’ sound is present but each differing in style and presentation. The first delivers slow strummed distorted guitars and rasped vocals of doom cast over a rumbling death industrial base, whilst the later with its blast beats and murky black/ death metal riffs is reminiscent of the aura of underground legends Blasphemy or similar ilk. The final album track ‘Bastards of the Black Flame’ arrives as a multi-layered black ambient slab of dread evoking sonics and murky abstract hellish noise, all whilst grimly screeched vocals and riffed guitars (slow to tremolo style) complete the wretched sonic picture.
Whether or not you will find some to your liking on this album will depend greatly on your penchant for lo-fi underground death/ black metal, but at the same time this is clearly not a metal release. However to consider wider genre implications it is worthwhile highlighting that throughout the early 90‘s there was some significant dislike to the increased interest of ‘metal heads’ in the dark ambient/ industrial scenes. Yet with the rise in the total dominance of the internet, as a result genre boundaries and scene politics has been greatly diminished which has encouraged the cross pollination of musical genres. Within this context Deathstench are a flag-bearer for genre splicing which has achieved prosperous results.