The debut full-length from Undead Prophecies back in 2015 was a perfect case-study of nostalgia versus art in the sense that it recreated the feeling of listening to early 90’s Tampa Bay area death metal but created little else of value. The sound was punched up to 2015 standards and ‘False Prophecies’ was a chunky, razor-whipping death machine in its own right but it failed to show any understanding of exactly why that nostalgia exists; The birth of ‘mainstream’ recognition for the burgeoning death metal sub-genre came as a new and exciting paradigm for the metalhead, a new extreme that’d recognize and extort the truly dark being shackled in a time of great censorship and war against counter-culture. By merely fashioning a resemblance to that movement a disservice is done to its inspirational creators and I would say the same of any of the current semi-popular Death recreation societies worldwide (Gruesome, Rude, Morfin, etc.) but, the truth is that when we talk about death metal we aren’t always meant to be analyzing it as high art or ‘serious’ entry. ‘Old school’ death metal for the hell of it, because it feels good or inspires in other ways, is an entirely valid use of time but I have trouble shutting off the part of my brain that’d take it seriously. It might be that I’ve been listening to too much ‘Consuming Impulse’ lately but, it seems Undead Prophecies have found the sort of detail and vigor they needed to properly tribute the old ways without sounding like a Death cover band at Filipino tourist trap on ‘Sempiternal Void’.
What could possible go wrong when you’ve moved beyond your resemblance of Death, Pestilence, Massacre and their ilk? Well, you’re just another standard old school death metal band to lump on the pile the last thirty years have amassed. At face value that is all that ‘Sempiternal Void’ has to offer, a predictable experience that the seasoned fan might have grown wary of in the last twenty years of revivalist acts. A closer look, as in an actual full listen, finds Undead Prophecies immediately stretching a few inches outside of those confines beyond the opening salvo of tracks. The most stunning piece on that first third of the record is easily the ‘Testimony of the Ancients’-esque opener “Insidious Manipulations”. From that point we’re given an almost Vanhelgd feeling “The Souls I Haunt”, and another ’91 era Pestilence feeling number with “Circle of Conspiracy” as highlights. So, you can’t really expect much more than ‘Human’ and ‘Testimony of the Ancients’ styled death metal but I’m sure plenty of folks will be more than happy to receive just that. The ultimate level of nostalgic inception comes with Undead Prophecies cover of Massacre‘s cover of Venom‘s “Warhead”, a fine way to end the record and a superior version to the cover of the original.
So, why bother if you’re not the biggest nostalgia nut? The riffs are sharp throughout and the guitar tone is pure electricity with a very refined attack and tone. The machine-like hum of a record like ‘Human’ is achieved here but in modern enough fidelity that it won’t feel like a teenaged band that simple can’t do any better. Is the songwriting on par with say, Skeletal Remains‘ convolution of the early 90’s? Not always but there are a few moments that feel on their way there. What kept me listening was actually the riffs that were clearly influenced by Pestilence‘s pre-’93 work, specifically their two 80’s records. That might be enough to keep my entertained by you’ll have to decide on the value of it yourself. The sound of the record and its simple throwback style should be enough to bring in new fans of ‘old school’ death but I don’t think the release as a whole builds anything new or interesting atop that old foundation. Moderate recommendation. For preview I felt like the pairing of “Insidious Manipulations” with “The Souls I Haunt” is the perfect showcase for what to expect from the full listen.
Killing darkness is coming. 3.5/5.0
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