September 1st, 2011
Release length: 54:01
Right from the start, two things become obvious. Not only is there a crushing atmosphere of desolation and brutality found immediately at the start of “Strangled,” but there’s also a strong professional audio quality to it that really enhances that environment. The drums are one of the main instruments to take note of, having loud, echoing cymbol crashes against the slightly rawer audio quality that come through loud with a strong echo with a deep bassey thud to the kicks while the snares meety perfectly between with their tight, less echoing sound that’s allows the other two parts of the kit to stand out more, especially during the slower, Doom Metal-esque passages, while still actively doing their job of filling the music. The guitars here are about what you would expect from a Finnish band of this style, having more of a sharper sound then a blunt one, though not necessarily going into the groovier material from start to finish like most bands of this area of the world for this breed of Metal. The bass guitar itself is pretty loud in the mix as well, though not really giving off a strong presence other then mostly backing up the guitars, but this is where the album’s more blunt sound comes from, aiding the trudging and despair-ridden sound of the release well. The vocals show a great range as well, going from your traditional gutturals, to a more rhaspier, shouted approach similar to later Death albums that nicely suits the darker vibe of the music. The only thing that can really be said negatively about this is that the music doesn’t really have that bludgeoning feel to it that would go so nicely with the already burdening sound. While it leans more to the distortion used, the rawer production can feel like it’s faulting that as well, coming through a bit lighter in sound then it should, which does keep the listener at bay a little bit from become truly engrossed in the experience Decaying is clearly trying to portray on this album.
This effort also feels a little too strict as far as the track placement goes. One song is short and more traditional Death Metal, while the next is longer and focuses on that trudging Doom Metal meets Death Metal sound. “Strangled” kicks things off nicely with a furious, pounding assault of blistering intensity that you can’t help but immediately get wrapped up in, holding a decent of Finnish Death Metal influence to the performance, but still goes through various other approaches such as the aforementioned slower Doom Metal influenced passages, and even a more traditional American take on the style. The song closes with that slower sound that does feel heavy and more despair-fueled then anything else, and it does work both for the conclusion of the song, as well as asegway into the more dominantly crawling “The Aftermath.” This track does take the doomier approach to the music with some simpler material that is transitioned well throughout the release, including some faster moments but nothing close to what the shorter tracks here offer. Again though, the atmosphere feels a little weak due to that slightly lighter audio sound, though the addition of the rhaspier vocals really makes the environment of the song a little more creepy and insane, allowing the listener to become more invested in the track and it’s eleven and a half minute time span.
But, thanks to the issues with the atmosphere, the longer tracks on the album are often not the most engaging you will find. Granted they are still strong compositions that are performed well, but all together they do end up getting a little boring by the end, largely in the environment not really being as strong, dark, or menacing as it should be. Even with that said, you’ll still find yourself coming back to the songs and enjoying them for what they are, but there’s no denying the shorter offerings here are where the band really shines. The aggression on these cuts really stand out as professional quality from a band that has existed for quite some time, never really making you think this is a debut offering from the band. “As the Fire Burns” makes for a punishing song that you can’t help but feel like headbanging along to with it’s more brutal sound due to the richer music being played and the full sound from the material not really going the way of simpler chords. Even “New Order” shows the potential the group has when the music picks up some additional intensity while adding that rhaspier shouting approach to the mix, leaving it to sound really commanding and abrasive, as well as one of the best songs on the recording.
When Decaying does manage to work in some faster material to the longer tracks, it works out great. “…To Decay” will really keep the listener’s attention thanks to the mixture of fast and slow paces that are transitioned well throughout, though it’s not the greatest offering on the release, similar to “The Aftermath.” This gives the song a bit more bite to go with that desolate atmosphere they try very hard to create, making this one of the better, far more enjoyable longer tracks here. “Annihilation” even does a good job of this, though sticking more to the slower material, but allowing the music to naturally build at times and having that crazier rhasp going in the vocals when the material is at it’s pinnacle. This does lead to a more epic element to the music at times, such as the first guitar solo. There is even some spoken word moments involved to the overall epicness of the conclusion that builds back up nicely and keeps the listener more invested then earlier on in the track, having a natural progression that works well and cannot be denied as a strong track for it’s length.
All in all, Devastate by Decaying is a very strong starting point for this band. While the debut may only be six tracks, you’re looking at a total of fifty plus minutes of good Death Metal, with only one track really hindering the album. It’s sad that the song in question lasts over eleven and a half minutes, but that still leaves you over forty minutes of solid intensity and trudging despair, which is something not a lot of established acts today are capable of doing anymore. Had this release also been blessed with a deeper production quality then what it has, Devastate could easily have been one of the best albums of this style for 2011. But, hopefully Decaying will learn from these faults, and continue to grow and expand their sound, a little more then what is present here to unleash a monster of a full-length shortly. Decaying is definitely a group worth keeping an eye on, and Devastate an album worth checking out.
01. Strangled – 5:08
02. The Aftermath – 11:38
03. As the Fire Burns – 5:58
04. Annihilation – 14:52
05. New Order – 4:29
06. …To Decay – 11:56
|Overall Score: 8/10
Digital review copy of this release provided by Hellthrasher Productions.