Under the Church – Total Burial EP

Swedish-Icelandic collective, Under the Church, are on a mission to keep the flag of old school death metal flying high. As custodians of the classic HM-2 Swedish death metal pioneered by Entombed, Dismember and Grave, their remit is clear – no nonsense extreme metal for society’s headbangers and heretics. That means no blast beats, no synthetic kick drums, no jazz-fusion shredding, or weird time signatures. This is the realm of the pernicious, where the most engrossing murder fantasies come to life through the medium of music.

The crusty death metal of the late 1980s has as much in common with the raw intensity of hardcore as it does the extravagance of heavy metal, and Under the Church are keen to remind us of this phenomenon. Opener, ‘Day of Reckoning’, is a superb assault of death metal toxicity wrapped up in the blood and sweat of 1980s New York. Here, vocalist Erik Sahlström exaggerates his bloodlust approach with a distorted rasp that always retains its perspicacity. Listen to those skank beats underneath the murky layers of filthy guitar – these will make your taste buds salivate with the scent of virgin blood.

Standout track, ‘Spit on Your Grave’, is just as unpleasant as the title suggests. Simple slide chord rhythms and maximum bass guitar overdrive give this one the quintessential Venom vibe, minus the undercurrent of rock and roll. That’s not to say the latter is absent from the music. ‘Depraved Vocation’ takes Motörhead’s iconic ‘Ace of Spades’ as its foundation and feeds it through the blender of the early Death records. Sometimes, the influences are too obvious. One must assume the band are aware that the main riff in ‘Total Burial’ uses the same chord sequence as Celtic Frost’s ‘The Inevitable Factor’. It might bother you at first, but this is a fine slab of transgressive heavy metal like Germany’s Desaster in full throttle. Would it be fair to accuse Under the Church of replicating a golden era when they’re so upfront about their intentions?

In fact, you’ll appreciate the subtleties of this record if you press play with the intention to enjoy it as a crusty hardcore experience with death metal tendencies. Strip out the exaggerated depravity of the lyrics and the macabre humour, and you’ll hear a collective of musicians with the same shared goal – how to deliver an audio offensive that snatches the oxygen from your lungs. Closing track, ‘Just Another Death’, will leave you perspiring in just under three minutes. Fans of Power Trip and Enforced should pay attention if they’re looking for a new adrenaline fix.

We don’t know when album number three will arrive, but Total Burial should keep you satiated for the next twelve months. Under the Church are here to slay.



Release Date: 03/12/2021

Record Label: Pulverised Records

Standout tracks: Day of Reckoning, Spit on Your Grave

Suggested Further Listening: Gatecreeper – Sweltering Madness (2017), Dismember – Like an Ever Flowing Stream (1991), Enforced – Kill Grid (2021)