Static Abyss – Labyrinth of Veins


Chris Reifert is a founding father of the unholy gospel of death metal. The genre would not exist without his input on the debut Death record, Scream Bloody Gore, back in 1987, nor would its current resurgence using crusty punk undertones thrive without his seminal work on the first two Autopsy albums in 1989 and 1991. Now he returns with a new band and a new Peaceville Records contract to explore the filthy death-doom fusion that emerged on the label in the early 1990s, where Autopsy left a clear imprint on its evolution and Reifert has no shortage of influence on the genre’s current leaders. Something like this must be a guaranteed success, right?

You know within thirty seconds of ‘Feasting on Eyes’ that this record is all about embodying the (evil) spirit of the original death metal before it became a springboard for technical musicianship and studio wizardry. Here, the punk-infused violence mixes the crunch of Death’s Leprosy with the bloodthirsty carnage of early Entombed. How does Reifert project those screams from the drum stool when his animated voice demands the most preposterous of squirming hand shapes for dramatic effect? This music pulsates like an open flesh wound and aches like a gash to the head. Listen to his fast skank beats and foaming-mouth roars on ‘Nothing Left to Rot’. Have you heard anything as depraved in the last twelve months? Guitarist, Greg Wilkinson, ensures you have no way to escape the terror with his imaginative use of two separate guitar channels to enhance the macabre experience. How does he fret that sustained sense of dread using the conventions of a guitar neck?

The song titles on Labyrinth of Veins leave you in no doubt of their metaphorical meanings. Some are blatant murder fantasies; others chart the decay that awaits civilised societies in the future. Wilkinson’s bass guitar gratings in ‘Mandatory Cannibalism’ are loud and proud, but Reifert steals the limelight with a hysterical vocal performance bordering on psychopathy. This is what the fictitious Sawyer family of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise would sound like if they formed a metal band. It glorifies bloodlust and human butchery, yet it remains enjoyable and even humorous.

Sometimes, the enjoyment is perhaps too depraved. The title track’s six minutes of grisly death-doom put you in the torture chair rather than at the back of the room as an accomplice to the slaughter. Yet no other songs overstay their welcome. Indeed, highlights like ‘You Are What You Kill’ and ‘Morgue Rat Fever’ come in at less than three minutes. The former is a classic piece of Napalm Death experimentation with death metal circa 1990, while the latter oozes with the pus of two guitars to hide the hardcore influences festering underneath the chaos. Let’s not underestimate the quality of the crusty riffs, either. These throb with internecine intent and leave a rotten taste in your mouth, like the early Obituary records.

Labyrinth of Veins does what it says on the tombstone, but its putrid scent and gruesome threats leave you standing in the background like the onlooker who cannot walk away. This is death metal in its purest form, and it provides a gratifying experience for old and new disciples alike.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 22/04/2022

Record Label: Peaceville Records

Standout tracks: Feasting on Eyes, Mandatory Cannibalism, Jawbone Ritual

Suggested Further Listening: Hooded Menace – The Tritonus Bell (2021), Death – Scream Bloody Gore (1987), Celestial Sanctuary – Soul Diminished (2021)