Swedish supergroup veterans, The Lurking Fear, return with their latest release, Death, Madness, Horror, Decay, and there are no prizes for guessing the manner of assault in store for your ears when you consider the band features members of The Crown and At the Gates, including vocalist Tomas Lindberg. But can they keep the death-thrash flag flying high in 2021 after a four-year period of inactivity?
Opener, ‘Abyssal Slime’, starts with a cacophony of sinister noise effects before a half-timed groove kicks in, but it’s not long before we reach top gear with Adrian Erlandsson driving the verses within the backbone of this sub-genre using the “Slayer beat”. There’s a relentless intensity as you’d expect from such an ensemble of musicians, with short powerful tracks such as ‘Death Reborn’ and single, ‘Cosmic Macabre’, and although Lindberg’s vocals are not quite as manic and deranged as in his younger years, his unmistakable style still delivers a strong performance.
Malevolence and hostility are never in short supply on this record. ‘Funeral Abyss’ greets the listener with a slow doom-like intro before switching to a mid-tempo head-banging riff with double-kicks underneath. Listen how the middle section drops to a quiet, eerie soundscape before the maudlin Sabbath-esque doom riffs take over. The title track follows in the similar vein, but ‘Architects of Madness’ takes an almost ‘Dissident Aggressor’ (Slayer) twist with slow triplet rhythms. Absorbing these musical intricacies makes for a rewarding experience on repeat listening.
The Lurking Fear are at their best when they go old school. ‘Ageless Evil’ is a particular highlight as a crustydeath metal affair, while Adrian Erlandsson invigorates ‘Restless Death’ and ‘In a Thousand Horrors Crowned’ with punk-laced skank beats. There’s nothing here that you’d call new or challenging, but it’s enjoyable, nonetheless.
Musicians as distinguished as these Swedes know how to end an album, although closing track, ‘Leech of the Aeons’, might surprise you in the way it commences with a sample loop reminiscent of something you’d hear strolling on Brighton Pier back in the 1950s. The head-first dive into the water is as impressive as the resurfacing in the form of a triplet sea-shanty with extravagant guitar verses, yet the slow passage and revived intro loop that follow introduce a welcome change of dynamics. This is a novel way of drawing a Scandinavian death thrash feast to a close.
Perhaps it’s unfair to judge everything Tomas and Adrian do in the context of the genre that brought them fame and critical acclaim in At the Gates with their 1995 game-changer, Slaughter of the Soul. But the similarities are there, so comparisons are inevitable, and it also begs the question why The Lurking Fear see value in releasing new material when their other bands are players in the same game.
That said, Death, Madness, Horror, Decay is a strong and solid album with notable highlights and will appeal to fans of this sub-genre, not least those that found the latest At the Gates record too experimental and want their death metal to be more direct. This does, however, still fall short of expectations given what we know these gentlemen can produce.
Release Date: 19/11/2021
Record Label: Century Media
Standout tracks: Cosmic Macabre, In a Thousand Horrors Crowned, Ageless Evil
Suggested Further Listening: The Haunted – The Haunted (1998), At the Gates – Slaughter of the Soul (1995), The Crown – Crowned in Terror (2002)