Without an ambitious or particularly detailed vision in mind for extreme music the nullity of patience can be a ruthless symptom of uncertain or overthought art. Those who preen over and scrap countless drafts may never achieve anything beyond luckily experimental or emotionally resonant spikes of creativity if there is neither set ideal to build atop nor layers to expand upon. Atlanta, Georgia-centric and southeast United States spread death metal band Cemetery Filth might’ve taken six years of revision, refinement of technique, and extensive consideration to arrive upon their debut full-length but they have not done so for the sake of an average product. The exacting focus of their death metal sound on said debut, ‘Dominion’, intentionally compartmentalizes Cemetery Filth, meeting the high standards of peak early-to-mid 90’s death metal evolutionary traits while showcasing their own unique modification of that alchemical formulae. Demonstrative but not overbearing complexity, a sight line for the origins of the sub-genre, powerful yet restrained technique, and a knack for ‘in the pocket’ riff music settles like ash in lung as ‘Dominion’ expresses Cemetery Filth‘s argument: The achievement of their exacting, tasteful death metal ideals was always the goal in mind and well worth those formative years.
There is the implication that time spent in between each of their early releases saw roles switched, members swapped, stylistic focus shifted, and anything else necessary for their collective ideal to be reached; This passion shows in every aspect of the realization of ‘Dominion’. From the ‘Blessed are the Sick’-meets-‘Severed Survival’ groove of their first EP (‘Screams from the Catacombs‘, 2014) it was clear Cemetery Filth didn’t want to just ‘sound’ like their classic death metal heroes from the late 80’s Scandinavian death metal outliers towards the incredible concurrent evolution of the original Florida death metal scene. Though I think the band’s main songwriters had a vision in mind, style wasn’t the major point to be made that early, they were just then landing upon the required tightness to be taken seriously. Each release offered some measure of evolutionary strength, further dignifying those Autopsy and Morbid Angel ideals. Their leading contribution to the first ‘4 Doors to Death‘ compilation back in 2016 (alongside Sabbatory, Ectovoid, Trenchrot) where the original line-up clung to their slower-paced Autopsy-esque sound while changing direction of their tonality towards something comparable today to a band like Superstition. Their step up into rhythmic tautness finally came with their 2016 split EP with the (now defunct) Sewercide. It’d taken a couple of years but Cemetery Filth had arrived upon a powerful production sound, fairly complex rhythms, and a Pessimist or Diabolic level of fiery aggression without losing their ‘old school’ death metal sound. A few staff changes would slow progress from there but it was clear that Cemetery Filth had established some notable identity and professionalism as a death metal band leading up to the sessions for ‘Dominion’.
Adding the impressive skills of Ectovoid drummer Chris McDonald to the line-up has better allowed ‘Dominion’ to swing between those faster Diabolic-esque (circa ‘Supreme Evil’) brutal Morbid Angel gusts, ‘Hate’-era Sinister attack, and some of the more fiery showmanship of early-to-mid 90’s Vital Remains. This makes for a versatile album in terms of its stylistic (but strictly death metal) range, some sections might recall a deathly Finnish crawl n’ blast a la Adramelech‘s first album (“Subduction”, “Festering Vacuity”) whereas others purposefully pour on the ‘Formulas Fatal to the Flesh’ charm (“Churning of the Shallows”). The way I’d heard ‘Dominion’ initially was if a band like Mortify (Poland, see: ‘Abyssal‘) were more obsessed with ‘Blessed are the Sick’ instead of ‘Legion’ and that should at least speak to the quality of energy, riffing, and understanding of the abrupt and shocking rip of Florida death metal captured therein. If I were making death metal I’d probably be stoked out of my skull in a band of this caliber, one that could’ve toured with Demented Ted or Monstrosity and held their own back in the mid-90’s so, this is my kind of band and my kind of album. Of course these ideas become less novel over time if you’re not a classic death metal nerd and while I wouldn’t say Cemetery Filth won’t appeal to the dabbler or the untrue hordes, their first album is definitely for the 90’s death metal elitist and comes from die-hard fans of the good shit.
No doubt all of those references are a bit of a clusterfuck to consider but the gist of it can be reduced to a core of late 80’s Scandinavian heaviness and thrashing Floridian death metal. These basal influences inform every aspect of Cemetery Filth‘s expression from their song structures, angular approach to chromaticism, production sound, and incredible album cover art selection (via Juanjo Castellano) and all of it speaks to an authentic but non-revolutionary record. It isn’t a perfect spin across the board, the title track isn’t as grand as it promises to be, the rhythm guitar tone (generally speaking) could use an inch more definition during their fastest sections and some of the leads bury themselves with non-statements (end of “Festering Vacuity”) but even the best death metal records fuck around a little bit at their edges. I couldn’t be more impressed by this well-crafted and highly considered debut from Cemetery Filth and I greatly appreciate that they took their time working up to this higher plane of existence before releasing their debut, when the bar is set this high from the start and the physical product is one for the ages a fan like me can’t help but bow to this sort of existentially fulfilling anomaly where the pieces fall together beautifully despite the violent storm that ‘Dominion’ is. A very high recommendation to death metal fans whose taste spans the entirety of the 90’s.
Very high recommendation. 4.5/5.0
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