Saturday, December 11, 2010

NWOOSSDM [New Wave of Old School Swedish Death Metal]

Man, ever since the Bloodbath gang threw down the gauntlet, the original over-driven Swedish death metal style has been given a new lease on life. Grave reformed; Unleashed and Dismember seemed to shake off their lethargy with sterling recent albums; even prodigal son Nicke Andersson abandoned the garage rock thing to write heshed out love letters to Autopsy and Repulsion in the form of Death Breath. Scores of new bands keep emerging to pay tribute to those magical days when the tag "Produced by Tomas Skogsberg" was a sure bet that something evil was on its way.

Necronaut is the debut solo project of Fred Estby, one of the godfathers of Swedish death metal, and the guiding force behind Dismember until he left in 2007. Despite the presence of OGs like Autopsy's Chris Reifert and Entombed's Nicke Andersson, Estby is clearly less interested in the "death" and more interested in the "roll" of the "death'n'roll" equation. In fact, more than any other Dismember album, Necronaut brings to mind 1995's much maligned Massive Killing Capacity (in my opinion, unfairly maligned; but it was my first Dismember album, so clearly I'm biased). Eschewing the blistering twin leads that was his former band's trademark, Necronaut chugs along at a respectable mid-pace, leaving in their wake a warm stoner rock glow. Wherever the rivers of 70's metal and 90's death rock meet, there sails the Necronaut.

If Fred Estby is uninterested in reliving his early work in Carnage and Dismember, the same can't be said of Interment. Sharing members with fellow old school fetishists Demoniacal and Dellamorte, Interment's band history apparently goes back to the late 80's, though they never got around to recording their first full-length till this year. And it shows: listening to Into the Crypts of Blasphemy is akin to opening a dusty box filled with b-sides from the first wave of Swedish death metal. If all this sounds like Interment don't bring anything new to the table, well...they don't. In fact, there is something wearying knowing that everything you're about to hear, you've heard thousands of times before. BUT. This band is not without a certain amount of charm, and an authenticity that can't be faked. It's clear that Interment aren't revisiting the past; they never left it.

Like Interment, Evocation's history goes back to a number of demos recorded in the early 90's and only recently issued their first full length (2007's Tales from the Tomb), but that's where the similarity ends. In an approach that mirrors Hypocrisy circa The Final Chapter, Evocation have the gall to write death metal with an ear for pop simplicity; Apocalyptic carries more hooks than Clive Barker's cenobites. It's bound to enrage old school purists who decry anything that resembles the Gothenberg sound. Myself, I've always been a sucker for death metal with catchy hooks (it's one of the reasons the Stockholm sound was so endearing to me for so long), but by sanding off most of their rough edges, I worry that Evocation have rendered themselves inert. Unlike Clandestine or Like an Everflowing Stream, Apocalyptic won't reward multiple listens or an ear for detail.