What began as a taut and brutal hail to the heaviest horrors of Florida and New York death metal history in 2010 has rooted, infested and blossomed into a confidently flowing modern death metal beast of it’s own. Those artists most sacred and ancient to Phoenix, Arizona dark lords Lago read obvious and sincere enough with Morbid Angel, Deicide, and Immolation as the impetus and the brutality of post-millennium death as the conduit. Without their writ their influences would already be fairly clear through Lago‘s sound regardless of what line-up or which album. The earliest works were tightly wound and appeared as if a technical death metal band were dialing back, and perhaps even ‘dumbing down’, but on their second full-length ‘Sea of Duress’ finds Lago‘s own rhythms and their own way.
After the anxious and jagged ‘Marianas’ EP in 2010 the band took a full four years to form as bandleader, vocalist and guitarist Cole Jacobson sought a stable line-up alongside longtime (until recently) bassist Garrett Thomas. The resulting 2014 album ‘Tyranny’ invoked the ‘Gateways to Annihilation’ and ‘Domination’-esque sledging and down-tuned crawl that I personally can’t get enough of. I fell off the album’s back as the bland shredding leads and Behemoth-like blackened death riffs lead ‘Tyranny’ astray. In aiming for a progressive-but-brutal black/death metal sound they’d actually lost some of the distinct character heard on ‘Marianas’. It wasn’t a terrible album, but an easy sort of release to pass up.
With an almost entirely new line-up, and another four year wait, ‘Sea of Duress’ appears with visible scars and a greater sense of self. It is an album composed with confidence, an ear for nuance, and without the desperate anxiety of most modern death metal acts. There is a newly jagged, angular storm spiraling around the opulent and spacious production, thanks to Ken Bergeron of Abigail Williams, that overtakes the listener and comfortably shoves their face into a black pool of despair. These are songs of suffering, despair, quiet desolation and loneliness that reach a higher register thanks to highly professional fidelity.
Jacobson‘s guitar work is an exacting lute of doom circling the mix with diabolical strength and captivating compositions that use old influence to enhance the cursed yarn Lago spins, rather than become mired in the identity of others. This is a feat in and of itself but the payoff, the unfettered and captivating listening experience, comes perilously close to putting albums like ‘Unholy Cult’ out to pasture. Barreling growls and tomb-spankingly heavy rhythm guitar work provide ye olde dance between glowering Morbid Angel diatribes and dissonant Immolation atmospherics (See: Drawn and Quartered) but the lead work from Gus Barr provides an authentic value not yet heard on previous Lago releases. It is as flattening as it is impressive.
As a collective work ‘Sea of Duress’ is an energizing experience, a ruinous catharsis for those facing impossibly dark times or simply a nuance and mildly progressive course of pure death metal. I found the guitar performances moderately varied and effective as movements, but the larger snapshot of the album’s musical value is variation on a theme that builds as the listen progresses. My favorite moments build towards the end of ‘Sea of Duress’ with “Haze” being a righteous standout before “Providence” offers an ultimate point of resignation. There is still that sense of a brutal death metal band restraining themselves towards some higher art influenced by late 90’s death metal but the effect is more genuine than some comparable ideas from Regurgitate Life‘s ‘Obliteration of the Self’ from last year. This newly resuscitated form of Lago is wholly impressive as ‘Sea of Duress’ comes highly recommended to death metal heads at the midpoint of 2018.
|Released||June 8, 2018|
|BUY/LISTEN on Unique Leader Records’ Bandcamp!||Follow Lago on Facebook|
Dormancy of poisonous malevolence. 4.0/5.0
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