Death Yell – Descent Into Hell (2017) REVIEW

Death Yell has very little peripheral exposure as an obscure Chilean black/death metal band with a minor classic demo back in 1989. The rough-edged ‘Vengeance From Darkness’ was cleaned up and released as the ‘Morbid Rites’ compilation a few years back, and certainly earned its place as a lovely relic. Visions of the past aside, the band’s personality has been hard to keep track of over the years. A twelve year split left the band with a marginally different sound that seemed to change with each drummer. The brief life of an underground flash-in-a-small-pan could have been more interesting than the impact of their return. I mean, it usually is when old bands come back from the dead and make out-of-touch records with tamed spirits. What a surprise it was when this “31 years in the making” debut record ended up being so much better than anything they’d done before. As an analog: This is akin to the return of Interment (Swedish one) where both the demo and the comeback album are not only decades apart but really fucking good. In Death Yell’s case I’d never have guessed these are the guys who put out ‘Vengeance From Darkness’ back in the day, but the spirit and dark sound of the band is still fully there if you give it a few listens to unfurl.

Death Yell retains the classic Chilean death/black sound with bestial thrash influences, not unlike a more imaginative version of their country-mates Sadism but with a touch of Peruvian band Mortem‘s old school references and wild whammy-bar antics. The vocalist has more of a black metal-tinged croaking hiss that is thankfully not overdone. It is distinctly evil-intentioned even when some of the riffing really isn’t. The urgent brutality of Death Yell’s approach is kind of outrageous considering it isn’t keeping in line with past output, which tended to be all over the place with drum pacing, but the performances are incredibly tight and well polished. ‘Descent Into Hell’ doesn’t feel like a bland retro death metal album, but instead reaches for something more complex and modern in both sound and approach. I’ve come to expect bestial, filthy and sloppy music from certain South American metal circles and it is nice to hear a band going for clarity and precision while still cultivating a very dark sound. Too often modern Chilean bands hide lack of melody, or ideas, behind studio reverb. Death Yell eschews this practice to great effect, subverting expectations: No need to hide mistakes in post-production, or to create a false sense of atmospherics, with silly reverb when their music is so tight and professional as it is.

Photo by Death Yell

I love this kind of stuff and spent a long while obsessing over Brazilian and Chilean death metal bands. Death Yell’s first demo was always an odd bestial black/grind album that came from an era of post-thrash, war-metallic experimentation. Their first incarnation was likely spurned on by records by Holocausto and Sarcofago, but also featured heavy influences from hardcore/crust punk such as Amebix, while diving deep into the grind of Napalm Death and angular Morbid Angel structures. Yes, the 30 minute demo was a unique, complex and crawling beast that totally earns the band at least some notoriety that grants them a shot at redemption. The band put out some incredible bursts of unique blasting death noise on their demo but the greatest indication of their intended (current) sound comes from their split with Beherit in 1991 where they played one song that resembles a black metal band with a screeching vocalist as they attempted somewhat technical death/thrash metal. Fast forward to 2013 as the amazing return of Atomic Aggressor was blowing my brains out: They did a split with Death Yell where it appeared that Death Yell had somehow retained the blackened death metal sound with maybe more of a war metal lean in the drum department. I didn’t like the Praise the Flame album all that much and similarly wasn’t sure I liked that same drummer’s style for Death Yell in 2013, either. From then ’til now they’ve traded out the decidedly less precise drummer for a new one and their music finally has the structure it needed to fully achieve their intended sound. I don’t know how fair it is to say that this full-length shows the band finally reaching the potential of their musical ideas, but it does feel that way to me. It reminds me of several other Chilean metal redemption stories from the last few years. Releases from Pentagram, Atomic Aggressor, and Sadism have reaffirmed how much I love their collective dark, thrashing take on death metal. If only Apostasy would return too! I’m glad Death Yell has returned with this album, it is a great surprise.

‘Descent Into Hell’ has a sort of “kick” to it that reminds me exactly why I’ve been obsessed with South American extreme metal since the mid-90’s. The violence inherent to the performances and darkest themes ultimately feel authentic beyond the reach of endless tired European metal trends. It sounds so cliche to say that Death Yell’s first album was “worth the wait” after 31 years, but it really was. It is a strong death metal album that doesn’t seem hopelessly lost in the past, but still carries the core influence from the dark 80’s black/death scene in a very sincere and powerful way.

Artist Death Yell
Type Album
Released August 15, 2017
BUY/LISTEN on BANDCAMP Follow Death Yell on Facebook

Resurrect Apostasy next, please. 3.75/5.0