Without getting too deep into Naked Snake‘s greater philosophical ambitions over the last several decades I feel it necessary to suggest that Big Boss‘ quest for meaning and identity could very loosely resemble the unpredictable slew of faces worn by Douglassville, Pennsylvania quintet Outer Heaven in building up to their first full-length, ‘Realms of Eternal Decay’. From their ‘Acts of the Unspeakable’-meets-Xibalba mix of death metal and hardcore on their first demo in 2013 to the Hooded Menace ribbed stoner death/doom EP ‘Diabolus Vobiscum’ (2015) that carried over into the decidedly more Incantation styled “Death Worship” on a 4-way split in 2016… Who are these dudes? A couple of years later it was a bit more clear with the “Into Hellfire” single that the band were primarily focused on a mixture of death/doom influences and with that caverncore sound they were surely headed for a label like Dark Descent Records, I mean it was spot on their brand of stuff. Surprisingly enough they landed on Relapse Records and all of the ideas previously explored were surreptitiously blended together into what is a moderately distinct form of hardcore influenced death metal with a healthy dose of Autopsy‘s ‘Mental Funeral’ informing the less bounding sections.
So, they’re Abscess, eh? Whoa, no not even close. They heavily resemble ‘False’-era Gorefest (alternately, early Morta Skuld) during the slow sections with an enormous burly growl atop slabs of atmospheric riffing. Beyond the more obvious Genocide Pact comparison you’ll get hints of Jungle Rot‘s hardcore bopping and some Morbid Angel-sized lava bursts along the way. The love of classic death metal bleeds into every song where a subtle reference highlights each with a different sense of self be it Death (see: “Realms of Eternal Decay”), Morbid Angel (see: “Sacrificial Evolution”, “Pulsating Swarm”), Demilich (see: “Putrid Dwelling”) and a butt-load of New York death metal style to round things out. This occasionally clashes in some awkward ways as the hardcore influences create a very different energy and tone than the old school death metal antics. I’ve had conflicting feelings for this album from the first listen primarily because their sound operates without enough of a blend of influences to feel like a secure identity.
Occupying the fantastic space between Gatecreeper‘s deathly hulking kick, Skinless‘ haplessly throttled machine gun gore-chugging, and Xibalba‘s mosh heavy hardcore thug-hammer will be enough for most listeners and ‘Realms of Eternal Decay’ no doubt offers a ripping, fluid and entertaining spin that rests just above average. The riffs are there and the sound is amazing thanks to Kevin Bernstein and Arthur Rizk but the points of interest within composition cannot rely on polish to feel fluid or meaningful as a whole. I understand the risk of expecting too much from a death metal album simply because it has been a banner year for the artform and instead I would at least suggest that folks temper their expectations towards something less transcendent or masterful than hype might’ve suggested. It appears as a merely good debut album in a current pool of greatness.
Talking down from mine uppity ledge is warranted all the same. It is a beastly death metal record with beautiful packaging offering the perfect wrapper for the intricate, sludgy and spastic depths of Outer Heaven. I see the greater appeal of ‘Realms of Eternal Decay’ created through a reasonably democratic balancing of influence and reference but I can’t help but wonder where the soggy Acid Witch funk of ‘Diabolus Vobiscum’ went. As a debut it is both inspirationally heavy and varied yet, looking to the past and into the future, the level of compromise felt in the details of this record seems to have had a ‘muting’ effect on the bigger picture. This one comes with a moderately high recommendation because I know it will fit snugly into the average death metal classicist’s fare even though it did not inspire gushing on my end. For preview you could just as well randomly select a track and it’ll be of interest but no two tracks flow together in great harmony than the “Pulsating Swarm” / “Multicellular Savagery” combo, the closer “Decaying Realms” is otherwise my favorite composition overall.
Upon the altar of being. 3.75/5.0
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