The most frightening thing about getting into extreme metal as a kid was most definitely coming across bands that I was sure meant it. From the frothy blood-raping animated cadaver terror of Cannibal Corpse to the devoutly Christ-butchering sing-along-songs of early 90’s Deicide and on towards the actual murderers, arsonists, rapists that black metal would popularize with there was nothing more dangerous in music at the time. The veil was quickly lifted as I’d attend shows and not only were the fans pretty tame, it was popular to literally just stand and stare at shows in the late 90’s, but it didn’t feel like I was shaking hands with an angel-slashing, God-punching, serial killer when I’d meet Immolation… More like high-fiving a cool uncle or whoever. It took some decades but I’d say nothing’s shocking for most folks as extreme metal is nailed down pat with every corner writ as a science and a respectable past-time. Every gory mannerism or political statement has been well-done, well imitated, and spawned a hundred fans with a hundred bands under their belt. Your only hope to remain frightening to mainstream metal market in 2019 is to either feign fascism or go straight up Alex Jones for attention with hopes of selling a few records off of childish internet outrage. Or, hey the major alternative would be to focus on making truly unsettling music that is believably psychotic, that leans into those darkest pits of the psyche, that will always unnerve even the most jaded listener. That’d be my reaction to Oakland, California engineering dark lord and sludge beast Greg Wilkinson‘s mayhemic death music machine as he slips on that first Leather Glove; The glint in his eye is murderous.
The thing with classic death metal is that you’ll more or less get the same effect whether it is a demo written by bunch of teenagers last week or a seasoned band spending a hundred grand on a needled-ass grand production. A sinister riff or a dive-bombed waggling solo still pokes through whatever fidelity or tic has been inserted or imposed for style or character. While Wilkinson‘s project focuses on sludgy, mid-paced death metal structures that verge on death/doom that structure isn’t the entirety of the work, simply the motion of it all. Where ‘Perpetual Motion’ sticks in the mind, weaves through synapse, and strikes the amygdala comes with the nuance of the riff and how the fantastic guitar leads guide the experience towards true horror. Many of these are Wilkinson himself, who flexed this unique approach a bit on Deathgrave‘s ‘So Real, It’s Now’ last year albeit within a deathgrind/powerviolence appropriate schism, but he’s brought in some notable masters between Eric Cutler and Danny Corrales of Autopsy, Shelby Lermo of Vastum and Ulthar, as well as Sean McGrath of Ghoul and Impaled to spice up the slaughter with a round of shocking lead guitar horror.
I’d been so locked-in to Brainoil‘s ‘Singularity to Extinction’ and the maybe fifty solid death, sludge, and blackened hardcore records Earhammer Studios has trucked out in the last couple of years that I figured Leather Glove would be quality. Not having taken the time to check out the ‘Skin on Glass’ tape from 2016 my jumping into this record was admittedly based on the promise of taste and quality that comes with anything Wilkinson touches. My first impression was that he’d more or less sliced out the sludge riffs and focused on something distinctly old school death and some of that came from the drummers chosen to crush the throne with Dustin Ferris (Pleasure Cross, Apraxic) handling most tracks and Chad Gailey (Mortuous, Necrot, Vastum, Atrament) taking on about a third of the songs. One of my favorite death metal records is Morgue‘s ‘Eroded Thoughts’ and I always appreciated that they’d had two different drummers on those sessions because the album was more varied for that mid-album staff change; Point being that I get some of that same feeling here, they approach the kit slightly different where I think Ferris has a bit of Cianide doom and grind in his style and Gailey is a technician with some hardcore fundamentals that avoid getting lost in the details. It all feels like the same drummer in motion, just a varied use of the tools.
As to what the songwriting accomplishes for the mind of an ‘old school’ death metal fan, I found it drew me towards the sort of bands that cropped up with extreme takes on what Autopsy and Winter had done early on, minus some of the Celtic Frost rhythmic influences. Deteriorot‘s ‘Manifested Apparitions of Unholy Spirits’ had some of the same growling ‘almost death/doom’ moments with some inspired lead work and I’d say Transgressor‘s ‘Ether For Scapegoat’ is an equally ‘almost there’ comparison in terms of tone and pace; You’d really have to stretch out towards ‘A Descent into Hell’ or more appropriately Morpheus Descends‘ first EP to come close to the full range explored on ‘Perpetual Animation’. There are certainly more modern cards to draw in creating a sense of rhythmic values (Coffins, Desecresy) and atmosphere but the lead guitar work Leather Glove brings is an ancient alien art that few modern retro death projects would think to attempt. I can understate how much some of the guest guitar work adds to the experience; McGrath brings a bit of ‘Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious’ to his part, Lermo is an otherworldly phantom, Cutler brings his own signature (which surely influenced Carcass, who influenced Impal…) and ultimately I’d focused on those guests too much without realizing my favorite tracks were the meandering atmospheric horror noise-punk afflicted ones Wilkinson handled himself (“A Cursed Role”, “The Resurrectionist”, “Reflections of Despair”). The album has such character because of this approach and I can’t swoon over the result enough.
In fact, I’ll shut up now and simply recommend this album to fans of groovy death metal that verges on ‘old school’ death/doom descent and suggest it as one of the more infectious death metal listens of March that even I’d overlooked. There is something for the curious Brainoil fan as much as there is for the ancient Autopsy fan. Highly recommended. For preview “The Sand Slips” is a ripping good time with an otherwordly scrape throughout but “A Cursed Role” gives you the other side of the coin immediately and I’d jump into both tracks in either order when looking for the big picture.
Nigh infinite carnage. 4.25/5.0
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