Embalmed Souls – Fire and Sulphur Salute You (2018) REVIEW

Unless you are lucky enough to have bought Crypts of Eternity Issue #5 back in the day you might not have heard of truly underground Brazilian death metal legends Embalmed Souls despite the project existing in some form since the early 90’s. From their very inception these Brasília-spawned metalheads appeared as a tight knit group of friends with an unflinching passion for death metal that is created for the true fan regardless of profit or fame. From what I gather, the project formed around 1990 with a rehearsal recorded as a trio before recording the ‘The Lament of Souls’ (1991) demo as a four piece. While some of the details are hazy to figure, it seems that the band proper began in 1993, as the celebration for their twentieth anniversary came in 2013. A few of those original early compositions, which we will likely never hear, did end up on the band’s first official demo ‘Journey Through Bizarre’ (1997). Before I dig into that one there is an important caveat here: Embalmed Souls have for all intensive purposes released four full-length albums and two EPs since 1993 but they treat them all as demo releases. Neither because they cannot find a record label, nor is it that nobody wants to release their music (I’m sure many would jump at the chance!) the reason stems from their core ethos. Fuck corporate entities and especially music-raping, cash driven record labels. Trust that I am only paraphrasing but, the sentiment defines their presence in the South American death metal underground.

It wouldn’t be until 2018 that ‘Journey Through Bizarre’ would be remastered and officially released by a label (Soul Erazer Records) and if you managed to pick it up when it was released (or today in its cleaned up form) you will immediately feel the fire of Embalmed Souls‘ sound. Their crossover between Scandinavian and eastern United States death metal styles came years before The Chasm had fully figured out their own similar interpretation of Finnish death metal atmospherics and Incantation-esque doomed passages; At the very least a fan of either band could find a similar rhythmic thread to enjoy within both projects past and present. Regardless of who resembles who, Embalmed Souls have been stalwarts in control of their own craft from the start. My own personal interest in the band comes from being given their ‘Become Vengeance, Become Wrath’ (1999) demo with the suggestion that I’d like it because I was a huge fan of the first Funebrarum album. Sure enough, I enjoyed the old school death metal demo tape atmosphere of the EP and it came at just the right time when I was obsessed with ‘Diabolical Conquest’.

Elements of Finnish psychedelic guitar leads, death/doom metal, and a style of drumming closer to Autopsy‘s ‘Mental Funeral’ rather than Krisiun (which would have been fair to expect from Brazil circa 2004-ish) actually ended up sounding like a long lost Gorement demo from 1995 on ‘The Temple of Bizarre Cult’ (2005). This demo is where I first noticed that most of their recordings appear to be recorded live in studio as it sounds like a soundboard recording from a very good show without separated layers. It is an honest death metal demo that really begins to show the melodic side of the band. Any fan of death metal’s complex and mid-paced guitar possibilities will find any Embalmed Souls release is packed with intricate and expressive musicianship but they really begin to shine on ‘The Temple of Bizarre Cult’. I wouldn’t personally hear it until 2010 when Misanthropic Records released a ‘Six Rites of Possession’ (2009) tape along with ‘The Temple of Bizarre Cult’ as bonus tracks. That was more or less the point when I went from casual fan to more dedicated Embalmed Souls listener as the live sound of the performances felt brutal and ‘present’ beyond the bulk of what I was listening to at the time.

‘Six Rites of Possession’ was a new peak for the band in terms of exposure but they would quickly outdo themselves with ‘The Kingdom of Fake Promises’ (2012). The songwriting is immaculate and the sound powerful despite a few hiccups that saw drummer Paulo and guitarist André both taking over vocals for the album as longtime vocalist Nildo (Nauseous Surgery) was dealing with health issues. As far as I know this was the first recording from the band that was not largely a rehearsal set-up with vocals recorded separately. It was also professionally mixed and this helped avoid some of the headphone headaches of the past. So, here we are at the twenty fifth anniversary of Embalmed Souls and they’ve gone above and beyond all past works in creating one of the better death metal records of 2018.

If you’ve only had access to the pre-2012 releases from Embalmed Souls it may come as a shock how warmly dark the production values are. The mix/master/engineering from Marcos Paulo with help from Wagner C. Coimbra is even clearer and more dynamic than their work on ‘The Kingdom of Fake Promises’. The spirit of ‘Journey Through Bizarre’ is still at the heart of ‘Fire and Sulphur Salute You’ but it is well worth noting that its sound is incredibly professional. The melodic ideas that flew out of the speakers on the last album now resemble the epic heavy metal influenced riffing of 2000’s era The Chasm as much as they do Transmetal‘s underrated ‘Cronicas De Dolor’ (see: “Hatred to the Sacred”) and they go as far as referencing classic Paradise Lost (see: “Poisoned Conspiracy”) but the sound of Embalmed Souls is still their own regardless of influences or styles traversed. The drum performances particularly shine throughout as drummer Paulo never wastes a moment of his time on the kit. Slick fills and brutish finesse become even more stunning as the full listen becomes more familiar.

As ‘Fire and Sulphur Salute You’ plays it twists its torso of semi-melodic, mid-paced, heavy metal influenced death metal towards an almost blackened death metal sound. The shift lands halfway between Uncanny‘s ‘Splenium for Nyktophobia’ and the most recent stuff from Thou Art Lord without losing sight of the jogging paced psychedelic death/doom feel of the record as a whole. The years of rehearsal and songwriting together across well over two decades shine greatly upon the finish product; Embalmed Soul‘s sense of self and taste in death metal have always been a major draw and this latest record is no exception. The return to their early death/doom-tinged moments is the biggest surprise for me. When going back to ‘Journey Through Bizarre’ I can’t help but think some of those riffs would fit in with a band like Krypts today while ‘Fire and Sulphur Salute You’ includes a large dose of that old ‘feel’ with throat-gripping Amorphis-meets-Bolt Thrower guitar work (see: “Slaughter at the Altar”, “Divinity in Ruins”) without coming quite as close to old Incantation as their earlier demos.

Whereas ‘The Kingdom of Fake Promises’ felt like an explosion of semi-melodic ideas that could not be contained ‘Fire and Sulphur Salute You’ feels like the band are wielding those ideas like a fire-drenched sword. Pensive darkness and impending doom growl from the speakers as the disc plays and they’re able to keep the momentum going thanks to the aforementioned subtle stylistic shift that takes place as the album plays. Some points of the album are more clever than others, though, and anytime I felt a track like “Sent to Desecrate” would droop a bit they’d come back from it with a God Macabre style riff or surprisingly melodic section. The full listen plays out so well because every song has a complete (and memorable) melodic statement and/or a ‘hook’ that distinguishes the track from the others surrounding it. At no point do Embalmed Souls fade into the background with their greater musical statement and in this sense they carry the torch of old school death metal better than most. As such I can recommend this album highly not only because I am a dedicated fan of the band but also for its musical value to old school death metal fans.

Artist Embalmed Souls
Type Album
Released September 13, 2018
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embalmedsouls@gmail.com

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Genre Death Metal

Feeding the black flames. 4.5/5.0

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