Caste or station in the Sumerian underworld might’ve boiled down to celestial lineage within countless legends yet Ereshkigal’s blessing came only for those who’d bury their corpse surrounded by all manner of wealth and antiquities under ideal interment. That said, Ersetu was neither a place of divine moralistic judgement nor separation of sinner and saint for the Sumer (and Akkadian) people but instead a tabula rasa of sorts for all ancestors; In passing down below the most privileged would be lucky enough to buy into luxury, their considerable fortunes buried with them would secure a hot spot in the hereafter. A “demon of fate” and well-worshiped heroic fixture in the underworld, Šul-pa-e would be a popular point of worship as the written word arrived in Mesopotamia, a demigod feared yet heralded for his symbolic representation of the ‘Gods’ respect and youthful effluvient nature. Hymns to daimon such as Šul-pa-e were believed to soothe all dread experienced by those most high-born in the dead underworld, where music itself was tied to the thriving existence of ancestors in the afterlife. Because of this the ancient Sumer were unarguably a people of devotional music, spiritual bards roused to diatonic bliss by way of harp, lute, and reed-pipes in creation of scales that are sustained today as twisted, inexorable sonic DNA. Today Roman brutal death metal quartet Devangelic bear their own savage odes to the underworld whilst unraveling the connection between greater beings in the cosmos and the seeds they’d plant in creation of mankind. ‘Ersetu’ not only finds these talented Italian brutalists entranced by ancient Annunaki lore but their third full-length likewise serves as a new apex event for classic brutal death metal.
Formed in 2012 as a more ‘serious’ project beyond their days in Coprophiliac and Vulvectomy while aligning fates between those who’d filed in and out of the ranks of well-respected brutal death metal groups such as Corpsefucking Art and Putridity over the years, Devangelic were certainly not confused as to what direction they were headed when they’d initially teamed up. I mean, look at that sharp Disgorge-assed Zig logo, it was all right there from the get-go. Italy has long been an exciting hotbed for incredibly brutal death music and these guys come from the deep underground with great respect for both the classics of death metal and the late-90’s/early 2000’s bursting-at-the-seams brutal death metal era where bands like Disgorge, Gorgasm, Malignancy, Deeds of Flesh and thousands more would hyper-evolve the nuances of the sub-genre through iteration on a massive scale. When they’d make their debut on Comatose Music (‘Resurrection Denied‘, 2014) their original line-up was intently focused on straight forward blasting brutal death metal, just slight more reasonable in pace than say, ‘Brutality is Law‘ where blasts are a vital basal language for the listener and in the case of Devangelic, a continuing characteristic attack that persists to this day. That first album was exemplar but had a thin drum sound a la Deeds of Flesh circa ‘Reduced to Ashes’ with riffing that was more chugged-out and kind of that typical Disgorge (United States) punch-and-squeal mosh lunging. By the time their second album for Comatose (‘Phlegethon‘, 2017) rolled out with new drummer Marco Coghe (Catastrophic Evolution) the band had completely evolved towards their first masterpiece; Leading with a guttural retched vocal, and a gigantic nuclear event of a production job this was really the album where Devangelic became a name to be known.
For their third album, and first for Willowtip Records, Devangelic revitalize once again adding new bassist Alessio Pacifici who brings a nastier than thou gut-punch to a better balanced brutal death metal sound; This time around the drums are idealized in the mix without any of the ragged edges of the first album or overbearing thunder of the second. Though the oldest schoolers among us will still feel inclined to compare the band’s modus to underground late-career classics like ‘Destined to Violate‘ and ‘Consume the Forsaken‘ the more hip to current kicks kids will see it fitting in with the latest and greatest standard-bearers today such as Disentomb and brethren in Ivren, Putridity. Prominent bass tones and bumps of flashy riffs kind of swing me back around to mid-career Defeated Sanity and maybe even Kronos along the way but Devangelic don’t really fuck around with their brand of brutality throughout the very satisfying slapping of ‘Ersetu’. Sharper songs, tighter performances, mind-blistering feats of battery and wailing n’ chugged riff storms come without the direct anti-Christian blasphemy of the past, this time around they’ve redirected towards the mystique of ancient Mesopotamian subject matter, which is perhaps appropriate considering the era of death metal they’re referencing musically where bands like Nile would best survive the mass extinction of gore-hounds, rape and murder fantasies, and the dwindling irreligious ilk. In approaching this album an Italian underground classic from my CD collection kept calling to me, ‘Seven Times Seven‘ from Nefas, if only because it’d carried a similar thematic vibe though only about half the brutal rip of Devangelic‘s signature sound. The listening experience is referential of the ancient ways in modus while still fresh in its expression and rendering.
This time around I won’t have a ton of highlights to pick out of the crowd because Devangelic‘s guitarists keep the quality high throughout and it’d come across idiotic on my part with my remarks adding up to “I like the four times they slow down, ever.” With that said there are a few incredible moments such as the complete head-shattering sledge of “Eyes of Abzu” with slick somewhat harmonized solo breaks and what I’d call a quasi-breakdown near the end. Over on Side B “Throne of Larvae” was always the one song I’d stop and look at the tracklist for to make sure I knew its name for later reference and to appreciate that I was still fully into it and blown away after six relatively similar paced pieces. The melodic and ringing guitar parts that highlight the song are most definitely something capitalize upon and likewise a bit of a modern touch that ups the bar to the level of the aforementioned Disentomb. “Sigils of Fallen Abomination” expands upon those breaks and this is where I’d found myself most often thinking of Kronos and Nefas circa the early 2000’s. Of course these are subtleties in an album that won’t allow subtle to be the first point of description when approaching the percussive maelstrom they’ve presented here. Those smaller hooks and subdermally implanted nuances are good enough reason to come back to the album year after year but it is the sheer beating that Devangelic provides that’ll get you tapping your foot ’til it hurts and drumming on any available surface with your fingers. Where I mean to go with this is that there is both cerebral and primal satisfaction within ‘Ersetu’, it cannot and should not be passed off as a mere brutal puncher.
Though I wasn’t a maniac fan of Devangelic when ‘Phlegethon’ released a few years back revisiting their discography and seeing this new point of maturity adjacent to their most brutal set of songs to date has been a potent addiction for several weeks. This infectious beating alongside a stunning Nick Keller piece on the cover makes for one of my personal favorite death metal records released this month and certainly one of few brutal death records to reach out and slam me to the sand in recent memory. The full listen flows beautifully from start to finish, shooting for ~33 minutes which is just enough time to grind Devangelic‘s creed into your mind without it becoming a numbing bore. Since it has been my go-to neck-snapper since it’d landed in my hands I’ll have to give ‘Ersetu’ a high recommendation.
High recommendation. 4.0/5.0
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