Undercroft: Ruins of Gomorrah

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Undercroft: Ruins of Gomorrah
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Undercroft: Ruins of Gomorrah
Death Metal, Thrash Metal
Season of Mist Records
October 9th, 2012
Release length: 45:09
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Undercroft is a Death/Thrash Metal group that many have yet to experience. In some ways, it’s with good reason. The band formed in 1993, dropping two demos before releasing their debut album, Twisted Souls in 1995 to a not-so-welcoming reception from the press. But, they persevered forward, issuing four more studio efforts, a compilation, as well as a live album. Their last entry, Lethally Growing, was released back in 2006 through a little known (and now closed) label named Tiefdruck-Musik. It’s been six years since then, and the group finally returns with their follow-up studio album, Ruins of Gomorrah. But, is this what their fans have been waiting for, or does it simply not live up to expectations?

The production quality utilized is a rather sleek one, but still holds enough of a bite to not be too sterilized when the pace picks up. The guitars carry a low, heavy distortion to them that feels a bit on the dirty side despite the crisp audio quality, and the bass guitar actually has a good deal of bite to it given how deep it resonates through the speakers. The vocals are your standard harsher approach most of the time that is common to the Thrash Metal style pulled forward in the mix at a decent level over the other instruments, and it works for what the band is pulling off. The drum kit has some nice levels to it that show off at various times through the release. The snares have a nice tightness to them that gives off a mid-range pitch with a slight echo, while the cymbals fill up the music well with a crisp output much louder than the rest of the kit. There’s also the bass kicks that have a click which tears through when the music is a little toned down, such as in a breakdown, but otherwise ends up a bit lost in the mix.

While it often sounds heavy, the audio quality does end up a bit too clean for its own good, which isn’t helped by music not really being that up to par with expectations. The best example erupts right at the start. “Intro (SLM)” is a slow acoustic piece that lasts thirty-seven seconds, building up a rather creepy atmosphere before going into a spoken word section of what seems to be mumbled chanting that carries from the heavier push the drums gave at it’s end. This is the start of “El Triunfo de la Muerte,” which builds a little more off the speaking until a Groove Metal heavy Sepultura-esque performance erupts, complete with shouting vocals. In this instance, the tribal drums are just replaced with a rhythm from the snares, but a dominant bass kick presence will divert your attention slightly. There’s a good deal of energy behind the performance, but the song itself is just very bland and out of nowhere for the group. There’s a bit of an additional Thrash influence to the following song, “At the Gardens of Hatred,” but if you’re not paying attention you honestly won’t know that it’s a different offering until the chorus hits. While the main verses are still pretty catchy, that part really becomes simplified, using a toned down Groove to the music with a decent sized gap of silence during the shouting of the song’s title. There’s also a breakdown towards the end that is just as unimpressive. Unfortunately these tracks are not limited just those two, as “Empalando Al Invasor” boasts a similar typical Groove foundation, though ends up being one of the better, as well as simpler ones available that you can actually headbang along to quite easily.

And, almost out of nowhere, Ruins of Gomorrah picks up on intensity, though still can’t shake that Groove Metal influence. This is fine given the far more intense Thrash fueled offerings that can sometimes resurrect the Death Metal ferocity. “Black Magik Witches” takes a few seconds to build up that creepy atmosphere once more thanks to howling winds against some sharper mid-tempo chords. It gradually creates a similar introduction as “Intro (SML)” before eventually slamming into a faster paced assault of pounding drums and riffs that equal in speed for the main passages. The chorus and other sections do stick to a catchier mid-tempo that ends up a little lighter, but the entire offering really packs a good deal of energy, using the tighter performance to weave a far heavier, even rougher offering that will have you banging your head along through much of the track. It’s the faster ones like this which really stand out the most on the album, and thankfully are not limited to just that song. “Legions of Beelzebub” is another intense ride that is far more favorable to speed and brutality. The crushing riffs mixed with often blasting drum beats hammer away at the listener, while the vocals take on a shouting gutteral approach that suits the madness perfectly, as well as gives the tone of it a commanding environment.

Ruins of Gomorrah is both a good and bad look at the progression of Undercroft through the years. The first three songs are largely generic Groove Metal, as is “Empalando Al Invasor,” but, many of the others on the release are furious, intense assaults on the listener, with or without a good deal of catchy material. Fans of the Death Metal influenced Thrash Metal days are definitely going to be let down by this one, but completely ignoring this release isn’t going to work to their advantage either. In the end, sampling Ruins of Gomorrah is worth a shot, but overall, Undercroft simply don’t make up for the extended break. The band gives listeners an album that is half and half: Fifty percent typical material, the other half a somewhat brutalising experience. As far as the first of those two halves go, you’ll wish you were listening to Sepultura or even Lamb of God, but the other shows the band hasn’t forgotten why their fans love them, servicing them with crushing, face-tearing Metal from a band full of unrecognized potential.

01. Intro (SLM) – 0:37
02. El Triunfo de la Muerte – 4:36
03. At the Gardens of Hatred – 4:43
04. Black Magik Witches – 5:54
05. Dead Human Flesh – 4:25
06. Ruins of Gomorrah – 5:23
07. Legions of Beelzebub – 2:37
08. The Art of Vengeance – 5:08
09. Emplando Al Invasor – 5:38
10. Outro (Drained by Succubi) – 2:41
11. The Beast (Twisted Sister cover) (Bonus Track) – 3:27
Overall Score: 6.5/10
Undercroft (band)
Undercroft
Digital review copy of this release provided by Season of Mist Records.