Carnifex – Pathological Rites [Compilation] (2018) REVIEW

In every respectable man’s exploration of old school death metal he eventually hits upon the inescapable truth, and resulting enlightenment, that early Finnish death metal offered the ultimate carnage-fueled variance of late 80’s/early 90’s death music. In exhausting the well-raped skeletal coffers of Finndeath apropros a scarce number of graves remain untouched. It is surprising that demo only band Carnifex hadn’t been properly collected and given respectful tribute by now, but at the same time listening to them all in succession you can hear a band clawing amidst their scene discovering what’d stand out. This compilation collects the original 1991 demo ‘Decadence’, their split with Festerday from that same year, as well as a rare third demo from 1993 that is generally impossible to find even among tape rip traders.

I have my own ideas about the tiers of quality when it comes to Finnish death metal but I think most folks who dig into the demo scene can at least marginally agree that demos from Abhorrence, Phlegethon, Xysma, and Sentenced were vitally important early on. From there I think any supposed second tier was either emulating their exploration of sound or creating their own. Carnifex, for my taste, sits in the same space with demos from Adramelech, Funebre, and Demigod in terms of compositional ability and recording quality. This is all arbitrary ranting that allows me to namedrop a bunch of great bands but it is worth suggesting that though great things were going on in Sweden at the time, Finland was creating an arguably more unique set of death metal groups around the same time.

Carnifex‘ first demo ‘Decadence’ in 1991 starts off the compilation with a weirdly digital sounding distorted bass guitar line and kicks into an almost ‘Subconscious Terror’-esque deathgrinding song with riffs that could have appeared on Mercyless‘ ‘Abject Offerings’. Almost immediately afterwards “Disturbed One” cracks open a bottle of Paradise Lost/Amorphis melodicism in a distinctly Finnish death metal moment but with performances arranged with an eager, almost thrash metal ferocity. Carnifex exuded an energy equivalent to Carbonized on their first demo while covering far more ground in terms of style. No great hints of the band’s amateur status really show up until the six minute “Necrophobia” where nods to ‘Altars of Madness’ are fairly obvious, but no less effective.

As with most Finnish bands of the time Carnifex‘ sound began to stray from grindcore blasted drum sections towards more technical (or melodic) performances as the early 90’s progressed. Their deviation towards the technical helped the band stand out on a split with Festerday, who were perhaps more influenced by Carcass and Carnage. “Release From Slavery” is my favorite track from this split because it finds Carnifex jumping between melodic parts, ‘Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious’ esque riffs, and a little bit of Amorphis at the end. The 1991 content from the band is all I’ve known for a couple decades so finally being able to hear the 1993 demo in full is the big draw here. I don’t know if my old tape-to-mp3 transfers are just degraded or poorly ripped but it sounds as if they’ve remastered the sound on these demos, Or at least been given some greater normalization.

‘Demo III’ is no great departure from the approach heard on the first two Carnifex demos but some if it’s style is definitely alien with some wandering quasi Demilich-ian riffs and a few leads that remind me of the first Alchemist full-length. I hear their melodic intentions expanding across each track but the drummer’s increasing abilities stand out the most. I think this demo is essential in getting a better idea of where Carnifex were headed if they’d made a full-length. It might not have been as melodic as Excrement or Wings, but seemed to be headed towards a style close to early Cadaver or perhaps Uncanny. ‘Pathological Rites’ serves as an appropriate epitaph for an impressive old school death metal band that never escaped the planning stages. It’s also worth noting the physical packaging includes a re-imagining of the ‘Decadence’ demo cover art done by Chris Moyen. The value here is perhaps limited to the more enlightened old school death metal fans who know the great worth of Finnish death metal demo diving. Carnifex weren’t nearly as weird as their neighbors but these demos are no less special.


Artist Carnifex
Type Compilation
Released May 23, 2018
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Left to fester then eaten alive. 4.0/5.0

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