“Gods Of Death” is an appropriate, if perhaps boastful, title for the latest release from Chicago's CIANIDE. Having formed in 1988, and having remained firmly entrenched in the underground in the 20+ years that have elapsed since then, the band's bona fides are indisputable – they've never had a big-label release; they've never been on a major tour; their name is not mentioned among the likes of other long-timers such as DEATH, MORBID ANGEL, OBITUARY, or AUTOPSY. Yet they remain well-regarded among the dedicated followers of the underground – their early releases are long out-of-print and command high prices in the secondary market; musicians across all generations that have come through since the band's inception have cited them as an influence, and recently, they ripped things up and got an overwhelming response at Maryland Death Fest.
This latest full-length, their first in over six years, is a solid offering of old-school Death Metal. Taking a songwriting approach similar to what existed in the days before further stratification of the genre (i.e., before there were sub-classifications like Death/Doom, Melodic Death, Technical Death, and the like), CIANIDE deliver a wide variety of tempos and rhythms, being content to just play plain-old Death Metal. Speed runs the gamut from uptempo (“Rising Of The Beast”), to mid-tempo (“Desecration Storm”), to very slow (“The One True Death”), and covering all points in-between. The only common elements linking the songs are the tone (which is decidedly downtuned, distorted, and grimy) and conventional subject matter.
Yet what makes this album truly old-school is not the song structure, nor the playing, but rather the DIY ethic that the band takes to their music. The early Death Metal recordings gave producers and engineers fits trying to actually get this high-volume, overdriven sound to actually sound listenable. It exceeded the capabilities of the recording and mixing equipment that was available in the late 80's and early 90's, and the sound of those early albums reflected this. CIANIDE have achieved a similar milieu with this release, having recorded it by themselves in the basement of bassist Mike Perun, trying to dampen some of the sound by hanging sheets on all of the walls. What results is a slightly muffled sound that gives this a rawness that makes listeners wax nostalgic. Furthermore, the total sound approach to the mix, in which vocals are somewhat buried beneath the instruments and in which solos aren't brought forward over the rhythms, further enhance this sense of primitive technology recording limitations.
No lengthy closing is needed here. This album slays, and CIANIDE show that even though they have been at this since virtually the beginning, and even though they haven't innovated the Death Metal genre during the last two decades, they still have more than a little to teach the younger folks in the scene.
(Online July 27, 2011)