Milton Keynes gave us the magnificent debut album from Tuskar in February, and now it’s the turn of death metal upstarts, Casket Feeder, to showcase the city’s musical talents before Tesseract return later this year. With two EPs under their belt and plenty of word-of-mouth hype behind them, the quintet know they must seize the moment while the UK death metal scene enjoys a new renaissance. The likes of Celestial Sanctuary, Beyond Grace and Phobetor put out strong records in the last twelve months, but where do Casket Feeder fit into this exciting resurgence?
Your first question after listening to this album is how Casket Feeder find themselves with no record deal. The tight musicianship, crisp production, and righteous aggression speak of a band deep into their recording career instead of a debutant on a limited budget. That might be because the members of Casket Feeder would rather not sign a “360” contract and give up a portion of their merch and touring revenue to a record company. Opener, ‘To the Hounds Go the Faithful’, starts like Obituary harmonising their guitars with the same rig as Chicago doom legends, Trouble. It sets the scene for a vicious explosion of wild thrash buried underneath an avalanche of death metal distortion. Vocalist Matt Downes could easily fall into line with a monotone growl, but his hardcore belting technique gives the music a unique angle. The extravagant Gojira riff in the middle eight is just as surprising. Clearly, Casket Feeder do things their own way with no preconceptions about what you can and cannot do in a death metal band.
The first half of this record is flawless. ‘Mask of Sorrow’ will have you bouncing on your toes like a boxer waiting for the bell to sound. The tremolo picking and note choices are perfect for this song, yet the Slayer breakdown at the end is the real high point. You should already know lead single, ‘Vulture Culture’, but your excitement will accelerate when you hear the maudlin intro of ‘Tyranny Begins’. This one progresses into a behemoth of head-spinning guitar grooves and psychopathic vocals that take the good cop/bad cop dichotomy to new levels of malevolence. The band cite Urne as one of their contemporary favourites, and you can see why. Both groups thrive beyond acceptable decibel limits and use noise as a virtue for their message. “Obsessed with power, controlled by greed/ Extreme surveillance they try to achieve/ Laced with evil and dark corruption/ A world headed for self-destruction,” screams Downes, at the top of his lungs. He’s not wrong – personal data is the new gold in the twenty-first century.
It’s almost inevitable that the band will regroup short of breath for the second half of Servants of Violence. The ferocity levels are heroic up until the excellent ‘Doomsday Prophecy’, and they seldom abate for the second act. You’ll find little to criticise in any of the remaining five cuts apart from their determination to see this album through like a Reign in Blood affair. ‘Wading Through the Dead and Diseased’ confirms the superiority of the death metal tremolo technique over the black metal approach, while ‘Servants of Violence’ mixes d-beats with the harsh death-thrash of Nervosa’s last effort and even introduces a luscious folk guitar interlude.
Casket Feeder know what they want on their debut LP – they want their music to encompass the best of Swedish death metal and the grittiest of UK hardcore. ‘Sentenced to Death’ can be a lesson for bands out there wondering how to mix fast alt-picking guitars with iconic body-slamming gyrations. Only on closing track, ‘Edge of Collapse’, do they fall into the trap of relying on Slayer’s influence when the ideas dry up. It’s a testament to their talent that even their weakest tunes are stronger than those of the bigger and more established bands in their genre.
The best artists survive through self-belief, and there’s no reason to believe that Casket Feeder lack confidence or purpose. Servants of Violence is a triumph for UK death metal, but you know this is only the beginning.
Release Date: 20/05/2022
Record Label: Self Released
Standout tracks: To the Hounds Go the Faithful, Doomsday Prophecy, Sentenced to Death
Suggested Further Listening: Phobetor – Through Deepest Fears and Darkest Minds (2021), Beyond Grace – Our Kingdom Undone (2021), Urne – Serpent & Spirit (2021)