*** Go to our YouTube channel in the link below to see the video review of this record in episode #8 of the SBR Album of the Week.
Paradise Lost legend, Gregor Mackintosh, took the metal world by surprise by announcing the end of his Vallenfyre death-doom collective with Hamish Glencross (ex-My Dying Bride) and current Opeth drummer, Waltteri Väyrynen, in 2018. But he retained the services of bassist, Chris Casket (Devilment), and launched his Strigoi project a year later with 2019’s acclaimed, Abandon All Faith. This time he returns for the sophomore effort having left Nuclear Blast for Season of Mist and adding ex-Carcass and Satyricon axeman, Ben Ash, to the line-up. The credentials are impeccable, but the band’s crusty take on death metal is even more impressive. Viscera is a reminder that the primitive course can often be the most effective.
You know within the first ten seconds of ‘United in Viscera’ that this record will be a nasty affair. The distorted doom guitar chords and earth-rumbling bass notes will make you shudder and squeeze your fingers together with closed eyes. Greg’s masculine roar is that of a warrior chieftain holding back a siege with his bare hands as his men re-group behind him. The crunch and crust will remind you of Triptykon’s last album with an extra dimension of grotty guitar noise coated in overdrive. You can understand Greg’s desire to dwell in the catacombs of the death-doom sound as the inventor of the sub-genre with Paradise Lost’s 1990 debut album. New drummer, Guido Montanarini, proves his worth here with an expert switch of tempo at the mid-way point using his rack toms to change the pace.
If you want a filthy extreme metal album, then, this could be the one for you in 2022. ‘King of All Terror’ piles on the absurd evil dimension of the early death metal era with frothing vocals and a crusty undertow of grind. Chris Casket’s dirty bass guitar tone on ‘An Ocean of Blood’ is like a septic tank receiving sewage for the first time in a decade. This one starts like a mean piece of atmospheric black metal with violent drum accents before the guitarists take back control with a verse of syncopated guitar crunches. You can hear Greg’s distinctive lead work from the Paradise Lost In Requiem era in the solo, but he shows admirable discipline in his fretwork. Let’s be clear: it’s just as challenging to write something as savage as this in the modern age as it is to compose a neo-classical guitar piece. A six-stringer like Ben Ash will feel the temptation to go fishing for notes, but he shows great discipline here to concentrate on producing the sinister vibe in Greg’s head.
Perhaps the most invigorating aspect of Viscera is its creator’s love for the early period of extreme metal that shaped his entry into music in the late 1980s. The song ‘Napalm Frost’ raises the obvious question – does it sound like Napalm Death and Celtic Frost? Of course, Greg is too experienced and too distinguished to offer a homage to the greats when he is also one of their ilk. You’ll hear the sliding power chord riffs and insane blast beats of Morbid Angel here, yet ‘Hollow’ could be on the latest Behemoth album. The bass trombone synonymous with the music of Tom G. Warrior accentuates the violent doom metal stylings to produce something much more malevolent. This is barbaric art. Listen to the ugliness of the open-string palm-muted guitars – these are obnoxious and gloating in their transgressive pleasure.
Every album needs a classic, and Viscera’s standout track is ‘Byzantine Tragedy’, a song that depicts the end days of the Eastern Roman Empire before it fell to the Muslim Turks in 1453 with the surrender of Constantinople (now modern-day Istanbul). The horn at the beginning is solemn enough to silence a busy Damascus bazaar with one note. You can also hear the subtle mourning of a female choir in the background if your ears can get past the noise terror of the ringing guitars. Greg’s menacing voice distortion makes you wonder if he injected his Adam’s apple with steroids. Paradise Lost fans will delight at the way he uses a high register guitar rotation in the chorus to counter the malice of the low-end fifth chords.
Strigoi make no secret that their favourite era of music is the 1989-1991 period, of which Greg made a seismic contribution with the invention of death-doom and gothic metal in the early Paradise Lost days. On ‘Redeemer’, he pays homage to his old Celtic Frost records and updates them with a black metal intrusion of blast beats. But this is not a nostalgic record. Music like this is too unsentimental to care about the glorious past when the void beckons with so much gravitational force. Let’s be honest: we’d be singing the praises of this LP as a welcome reaction to the over-produced, jazz-obsessed death metal of the modern era if this was a new band.
Viscera is a thrilling piece of grimy extreme metal that reminds you why the darkest path is often the most fertile for the creative imagination. Those of you that despair of the quantised guitars and typewriter drums of modern metal will have your faith restored after one listen to this record.
Release Date: 30/09/2022
Record Label: Season of Mist
Standout tracks: An Ocean of Blood, Napalm Frost, Byzantine Tragedy
Suggested Further Listening: Celtic Frost – To Mega Therion (1985), Autopsy – Morbidity Triumphant (2022), Paradise Lost – Lost Paradise (1990)