Estertor – Tales from the Ancient Grave


Barcelona thrashers, Estertor, should not be confused with the Madrid thrash-grinders of the same name from the early 1990s. You might even think this Catalonian quintet are from the late 1980s when you hear Tales from the Ancient Grave, but that’s no reason to be sceptical. As a follow up to 2017’s Buried in Morningside, this sophomore effort is a bid for the blackened thrash crown of 2021. If you like your Celtic Frost and Sodom records, you’ll love this album.

The closest Estertor get to the 1990s is on the opening riff of ‘Assimilating Flesh’, which could be from Slayer’s classic Seasons in the Abyss. You might even believe you’ve tuned into a Devastator cover of ‘Dead Skin Mask’ when the guitar crunches and spoken word dialogue start to froth. Thirty seconds is all it takes to convince you that the next thirty-six minutes will be special. Listen to vocalist, Edu, as he attempts to swallow his Adam’s apple. Tom G. Warrior is his target range, and he does it with as much menace as his idol. But don’t be fooled by the Hellhammer aesthetics – Estertor play with the same technicality as prime-era Sepultura.

You can’t beat the golden era of Teutonic thrash in the mid-1980s when the emerging German artists paved the road for what would become death metal. ‘Venereal Horror’ is muscular and mystical at the same time and always willing to vary the tempo. You’ll want to know why they’re not in permanent arm spikes and bullet belts when you hear the rip-roaring perfidy of ‘Nocturnal Strigoi’. Imagine Dark Angel covering Destruction’s early work with guttural vocals.

Those of us that love the first three Celtic Frost albums lament the poor standard of Tom’s lead guitar. Here, we get an idea what it might have sounded like if the Swiss frontman had an understanding of the basic major scales and an aptitude for fast alternate picking. Estertor present their axemanship as a dual attack and lead with the confidence and heroism of Bewitcher. Bend your ear for the golden melody and weeping pitch bends of ‘Keeper of Hell’ – is this not vintage Black Sabbath in its execution and emotion. You could call it a more concise – yet no less ugly – version of Possessed in its menace and might.

Perhaps only one reservation will cloud your judgement of this record. The Celtic Frost worship can get a little predictable on first listen. But give it more of a forensic musical analysis, and you soon realise that the guitar work is more akin to Slayer’s Hell Awaits and Destruction’s Infernal Overkill. But let’s give Estertor the benefit of the doubt – why would you go for any other style if your aim is to write an evil metal record for an audience of maniacal head-bangers? If the Barcelona quintet’s only crime is to enjoy themselves like outlaws, then, they’re guilty as charged.

Blackened thrash metal is more than just amulets and satanism. Estertor look to the past for inspiration but are clear in their vision for the future.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 26/11/2021

Record Label: War Anthem Records

Standout tracks: Assimilating Flesh, Venereal Horror, Keeper of Hell

Suggested Further Listening: Celtic Frost – To Mega Therion (1985), Desaster – Churches Without Saints (2021), Nervosa – Victim of Yourself (2014)