Siege Column - Inferno Deathpassion - (8/10)
Published on August 6, 2018
Death metal in the late 80’s holds a special kind of allure to fans of the obscure and underground. While a number of the genre’s biggest names got their start around 1988 and 1989, there existed a formative swamp of bands that wilfully blurred the lines between the earliest styles setting landmarks in intensity, playing a style defined less so by nascent if rapidly solidifying compositional and technical forms but an idea of raw unbridled mayhem. Necrovore, Exmortis, Incubus, Bloodspill, Necrodeath, Master, Deathstrike, Sarcofago, Parabellum, and countless others mostly forgotten to time might never have gotten much mainstream recognition but from the lawless expanse created by these bands the roots of the modern conception of the genre would take hold and grow.
As the ritualistic and blackened “cavernous” school of death metal grows more stale by the month and the hardcore punk inspired neo-swedeath movement continues running on fumes, many have become unsatisfied with the current state of classic era styled death meal and have decided to dig past the established and commercial friendly molds not for more bands to ape and imitate but an ancient concept, spirit, or ideal to draw inspiration from and create something abominable and untamed. Siege Column’s debut album joins Inisans Transition this year as an example of the fresh yet festering; a barbaric horde of sheer bestial death-lust that by virtue of its absurd intensity and devil-may-care attitude towards even a hint of accessibility demonstrates the hidden power awaiting in the depths so few have actually explored.
Siege Column’s sound is inspired from a time when death metal was in its protozoic state, having just begun separating itself the most savage thrash of its time but still bearing the mark of the punk and grind that it coexisted with at the time and even hinting at the South American black metal that was setting new records in unholy aggression at the time. It’s similar to the “war metal” sound commonly associated with Nuclear War Now! Productions and inspired by the seminal works of Blasphemy, Sarcofago, Beherit, Sadistik Exekution, and Bestial Warlust in execution. Siege Column aren’t as reliant on abrupt grindcore style blasting and walls of atonal noise, utilizing charging early death metal rhythms carried over from thrash broken up by drops into churning slower paced but not “doomy” rhythms. The musicianship is as rudimentary as it gets but these New Jersey maniacs create wide swathes of destruction with sparsely functional pounding. Simple barrages of power chords draped in blurry production ram through grinding rhythms with a few key moments of simple melody, using nefariously simple leads to invoke a sense of ominous, infernal evil and to give a formative sense of narrative to bullheaded songs. Drumming follows suite in a lockstep marching with repetitious pounding utilized to create momentum and force, occasionally interrupted with thunderous rolls exploding like proximity-activated demolition charges. Over this a vocalist roars incomprehensibly in grand bellowing growls with a hint of a hardcore punk snarl beneath the subterranean tone of his voice, adding further to the atmosphere of carnage.
There’s fairly little going on in each of these fairly short death metal apocalypses with each song eschewing labyrinthine structures or multi-sectioned song layout. However in their minimalism Siege Column draw the best out of each stampeding riff and screaming solo. Songs work through simple set ups of dramatic tension build up through chaotic motions with cyclic riffs crashing against one another like waves of post-apocalyptic barbarian hordes, setting songs up for dramatic climaxes that resolve each track in scourging waves of unrestrained soloing and blasting frenzy. It’s almost as simple as you can go for death metal and the punk roots of the style shine boldly in a way not even the Entombed wannabes pull off. “Penetrator” begins with a gutsy early Bathory style stomping rhythm before degenerating into an incessant storm of blast beat riff tradeoffs, eventually collapsing under its own intensity into a cacophony of screeching solos and tumbling chord progressions. The opening organs of “Sathanas is Near” are quickly steamrolled by rampaging d-beat intensity like a meaner Motorhead filtered through Celtic Frost, entering a headbang inducing mid-tempo stomp that leaves one completely unprepared for a turbo-speed haywire solo. “Belial Commando” begins almost as if it could be a Blasphemy track but alternates between a number of tempos with some truly triumphant leads soaring above the pugilistic riffing. Finally, “Trapped in the Sarcophagus” ends the album on a high note, opening with a notable usage of melody without sacrificing any rawness. Even when it does kick into high gear, it still retains that same tonality at a higher tempo, using it to create a pseudo-epic sense of heightening intensity with a few bursts of speed before ending the album on a satisfyingly explosive tone with a mixture of stompy strums and fretboard mangling.
While the album is maybe a bit too boneheaded for its own good and at times they fumble with its songwriting direction it is still a strong effort that explores a territory few these days dare within the death metal genre. It hearkens back to a time when death metal was a primordial ideal and some might say not exactly separate from the black metal it gestated alongside yet not identical to it either. Its sound is ancient at heart yet it can hardly be called a clone. It’s gestalt consciousness of a formative genre, the raw primal spirit of the idea of extremity in metal, and it breaks genre boundaries not through prog pretension or avant-garde aimlessness but harnessing the sheer inhuman terror and incessant bloodthirst of a genre that had violently torn itself out of its primal womb. While it’s not as strong as Inisans’ debut from earlier this year, it’s currently a perfect companion listen. They still have some room to grow in their songwriting with a shift away from raw intensity towards more rigid structures being something I could see benefitting them and allowing them to fully weaponize their impressive arsenal of festering riffs. If you value sheer impact and blunt force carnage, this album is so far unparalleled in its monstrousness this year.