A record such as ‘Summary Execution at Dawn’ could only stem from a love for the latter half of the 1980’s death and thrash metal concurrence as each sub-genre flew underground aspirations towards the sun of serious art form. The performances from this nigh decade-spanning Houston, Texas based drill towards the brutal primordial oil of death/thrash mastery have always focused intently on obsessive and cruel attacks, ornately spiraling kicks to the chest meticulously distilled from the black blood magick of death and thrash metal progenitors. An elaborate way to suggest good taste in riffs on my part but, credit due to the remarkable spread of diabolic and brutal influences guiding trio Oath of Cruelty towards this fine debut full-length. At roughly 35 minutes in length this debut is pure inhale for the listener, who’ll stay blue in the face until these brutal-thrashers relent at the end. It’ll immediately and effectively speak the language of the ‘old school’ death and thrash metal elite without aping any one sect so hard that they’d feel it was an insincere spasm of riff salad.
Reverence for the obscure greats is a massive point of value within the wheelhouse of a band playing an oft mangled sub-genre with several generational markers past — My admiration for Oath of Cruelty begins with the feeling that they cannot necessarily be boxed into one grave, at least not entirely. The most apt train of thought should absolutely guide the listener towards the post-1990 residual inspiration from the meaningful births the 80’s had brought to death metal, most specifically the true obscure darkness of Sadistic Intent and the earlier cannon-blasts of Merciless‘ first two records (a cover of “Denied Birth” is included); The sort of acts heavily informed by the inception of Morbid Angel and then additionally spurned on by the rabid early works of German thrash have new generational relative with this band, alongside talented riff-focused maniacs like Maligner or Infernal Conjuration. Be it similar mindset, influences or a combination of both Oath of Cruelty give the immediate impression that they belong among a very exclusive and righteous brand of death metal purists but these guys do exist in their own moderately divergent tonal realm as the album is expressed in full.
The capability to swing between blistering riff-stuffed epics a la ‘Terrible Certainty’ and the road-burning ‘Beneath the Remains’-era chunk of Sepultura (“At the Tyrant’s Behest”) is enhanced by the blackened bravado of early Angelcorpse, and there you’ll find ‘Summary Execution at Dawn’ delivering beyond expectations with material that could recall anything from Morbid Saint to Massacra in the moment. Even if those specific references aren’t recognizable the main event is yet recognizable as an impressive and precise run of harried thrash riffing and a cleanly presented ‘old school’ death metal sound that isn’t massively varied but also doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’ll sound somewhat cliche to some but the first point of staying power for ‘Summary Execution at Dawn’ lies in the song structures which not only come from an admiration of 80’s extreme metal but from listeners who obsess over the frantic wall of riffs orchestrated in that era, and that status could be expected from a band featuring members (and ex-members) of ancient-obsessed acts including Blaspherian, Cemetarian, Thy Feeble Saviour, Archfiend, and P.L.F. which should all imply a death-heavy war metallic attack unique to the present day Houston area underground with the extra implication that Oath of Cruelty are securely rooted in classic late 80’s thrash.
As a longtime death/thrash metal obsessive the established and most obviate character flaw that keeps modern full-length examples of the discipline from reaching their potential staying power is first absolutely dependent on crafting experiences that do not suggest even a hint of filler beyond a thematic introduction but offer enough room to ‘breathe’ that all riffs haven’t lost their impact beyond expected distortions applied to unidirectional grooves. Give me a solid 60 minutes of the same guitar sound, the same vocal lines, the same steady groove, and it all begins to desensitize … to lose that feral edge that’d given records such as ‘Death After Death’ or ‘Choir of Horrors’ their lasting weight upon the eternal burden of the mind. Cut it down to 35 minutes and I don’t give a shit if it all sounds the same, the ‘Darkness Descends’ part of my brain kicks in if the riffs are arranged in a powerful and impressive way. The second track on ‘Summary Execution at Dawn’, “Stabbing Forth with Invincible Damnation”, is the chasm to flail into screaming from the speed of opener “Pounding Hooves of Shrapnel” and on any fully listen this was enough Nocturnus scented air to keep the brain alive and engaged for the full 35 minute duration of this fine debut; It isn’t a massively varied record but an impressively focused one. A relentless pulse of gut-slashing evil death/thrash riffs, a prime render/presentation, and an imaginative enough narrative made this succinctly brutal rip my favorite release of December this year and up there with the best of pure death/thrash in 2019 — A very fine debut that is highly recommended.
Highly recommended. 4.25/5.0
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