Thanks to the magic of databases, personal record keeping, a mild eidetic memory and the efforts of many driven list makers around the globe I can safely say I’ve heard the Boss HM-2 distortion pedal used for both good and ultimate evil well over a thousand times even if just sticking to the country of Sweden. It’s extremity thrives across three decades and defines a time and place where a few lucky death metal bands briefly escaped the underground. It is a safety net, a sonic crutch, and one of the most predictably used effects in heavy music nearly as played out as the wah-pedal was in 90’s rock. Unfortunately I was indoctrinated into the Stockholm cult at an early age, as it happened, and there is no realistic possibility of escaping that nostalgic tic; The grinding lurch of hardcore inspired death metal riffs, distorted into oblivion, gets an immediate response from me every time. Every year I go about searching for the best -one- as an assumed annual requisite on my Top 50 because that Sunlight Studios buzz is a part of my own history and at least one band uses it wisely be it Mass Burial, Entrails, or Usurpress. This year I’ve yet to be blown away but Crawl‘s debut ‘Rituals’ is refreshingly straightforward in it’s truly Swedish blend of crusted-over hardcore and early 90’s death metal sound.
Formed between members of Kalmar, Sweden based death metal bands Tormention and the on-hold Discarnate in 2014, Crawl set out with their sights on pure and simple death/crust from their inception. With their line-up already studio-capable and professional sounding after four years in other projects Crawl‘s first demo ‘I: Serpents’ (2015) was notably polished though it unquestionably represented standard fare. On their debut EP ‘Worship Death’ (2015) the vocals were far more in line with Scandinavian crust, especially on the first track “Altar”, and I think if they’d have stuck with that approach they might’ve ended up resembling bands like Winds of Genocide or even Bombs of Hades in the long run. 2017 saw half of the line-up replaced by live bassist Ragnar Ullenius (Defueled) alongside former Decomposed bassist and current Dråp vocalist Joachim Lyngfelt. This changed Crawl‘s sound slightly and directed ‘Rituals’ towards a heavier lean into death metal territory. The result is brutal but only just up-to-par for Swedish death metal as they’ve negated some of the earlier hardcore punk interest of their first EP.
To say that ‘Rituals’ is bland would be too harsh but suggesting relatively predictable guitar work and overall patterning is entirely fitting. Consider Crawl a halfway point between the classic buzzsaw cruelty of Nirvana 2002 and the more recent output from death/crust supergroup Down Among the Dead Men. If you are familiar with Dråp you should immediately recognize Lyngfelt despite the emphasis on Swedish death metal tonality. The distortion sounds a bit tweaked and ‘digital’ amidst it’s d-beaten execution but the most interesting characteristic of the guitar work on ‘Ritual’ is the constant refrains into feedback as riffs resolve or chords resound. If you can handle the feedback-laden hardcore of early Eyehategod and enjoy it, some of that fresh ringing guitar noise hell defines Crawl‘s debut. At 26 minutes it’ll sure feel like a crust/hardcore release as it flies by quickly and though I would consider that an EP, anything beyond 30 minutes at one time would be too much. As heavy and capable as this band is they’re all brutal energy and offer little hook or memorability with their attack; The approach loses some of the spirit of the punk/metal that inspires it but still creates a moderately entertaining death metal record. For preview I’d suggest “Black Ritual”, “Cowards”, and “Reject the Cross” to see most every angle the album has to offer.
|Released||August 20, 2018|
|BUY/LISTEN on Transcending Obscurity Records’ Bandcamp!||Follow Crawl on Facebook|
Dawning obscuration. 3.25/5.0
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