Slovenian death metal quartet, Ensanguinate, promise a putrid interpretation of the aging genre by going back to the beginning for inspiration. This does not mean the proto-death metal of Hellhammer or Sodom but the year 1989, when it held the badge of honour as the most fearsome movement in the metal underground. Morbid Angel, Death and Obituary were the dominant names of that glorious era, and death metal held on to some respectability through the dark days of the mid-90s when heavy metal culture was at its most unfashionable in the mainstream. A return to the past can provide inspiration for the future, but can it be the only answer if the future holds no great signs of regeneration?
Ensanguinate make it clear that their music has little time for the polished theatrics of melodic death metal. Their approach is closer to thrash and the first wave of Floridian death metal than the much-imitated sound of Gothenburg. Opener, ‘Hunted’, gives you everything you want from a death metal song – gluttonous cannibal vocals, double-timing drumbeats, and dark guitar rhythms that rely more on their note choices than the violence of their palm-muted crunch effects. Death and Cancer are the main influences, but the Dimebag Darrell-esque solo and reset to a neo-classical passage at the two-minute mark keeps things on the right side of intriguing. Not that you need a reminder, but ‘Cadaver Synod’ reiterates the point that Death’s Leprosy album from 1988 is the wellspring of this type of music. Vocalist Andrej Čuk demonstrates a strong enunciation technique among his guttural transgressions, but it’s hard to see the need to stretch this one beyond four minutes.
Song duration is the biggest weakness of this record. Few of the songs here need to extend to five minutes in length. ‘Perdition’s Crown’ and ‘Gaping Maws of Cerberus’ have enough to merit a nod of the head, but the former needs trimming down to four minutes to achieve its full power. You’ll admire the cloudy guitar tone and crisp drum production here, not to mention the groove. Ensanguinate understand that the need for breakneck speed is often a way of masking your weaknesses. They deliver a bone-crunching assault in mid-tempo as much as their faster thrash approach on the like of ‘Ghoul Presence’ and ‘Death Vernacular’.
Only once do Ensanguinate see a vision of their future selves on ‘Sublimation’, with a composition that abandons their standard parameters in favour of a darker and more atmospheric piece of death metal introspection. It’s a brave decision to switch off the distortion for the verse parts. Why does this song conjure images of a ritual drowning carried out by the high priest of a pagan cult in front of a silent congregation?
It won’t light up the world of death metal, but Eldritch Anatomy is the album the band needed to make to establish their name. What they do next is the more important consideration. Do they want to be future stalwarts or modern innovators?
Release Date: 02/09/2022
Record Label: Emanzipation Productions
Standout tracks: Hunted, Ghoul Presence, Sublimation
Suggested Further Listening: Repulsive Vision – Necrovictology (2020), Death – Leprosy (1988), Nervosa – Perpetual Chaos (2021)