Centinex – Death in Pieces (2020)REVIEW

A close examination of middle Sweden’s least appreciated death metal band of the 1990’s begins in an unexpected place, a thrashcore demo (‘Stupid Humanity‘, 1991) with dual vocals that’d struck out defiant and uncannily morbid from the start. By the time they’d hit Sunlight Studio a second time mid-year (‘End of Life‘, 1991) the punkish and grinding aspect of their early sound was clearly going to stick around for their impending death metal full-length, (‘Subconscious Lobotomy‘, 1992) a notable outlier in the quickly homogenizing “me too” death music output from the Stockholm-area for its frantic drumming. At this point it becomes important to dial back the rose-colored glasses, take an objective stance and plainly see why you might’ve never heard of Centinex‘ releases until 2000’s ‘Hellbrigade‘. Despite being a reasonable analogue for killer fiends such as Unanimated and Necrophobic the band’s output featured an understated but still very much noticeable drum machine, this was acceptable for the labels they were working with at the time (Wild Rags, Repulse) but it’d bury their strongest and most viably melodic death metal contributions deep underground since. For the crate-digging unholy grail chasing melodic death metal fan Centinex is revered as one of the best-hidden gem streaks (’96-’04) as they’d carried that original No Fashion-kissed early 90’s melodic death metal sound well beyond its expiration date and, with style. So, when the band reformed in 2014 after post-Centinex project Demonical took a break (from their ’06-’13 run) it’d been some considerable surprise that their sound upon ‘comeback’ would intend to resemble the early 90’s days prior to their distinct melodic death metal shift in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. Have they doubled down upon the groove-heavy push of 2016’s ‘Doomsday Rituals’ for this eleventh album?

Yes. Not only has bassist and key songwriter Martin Schulman (Demonical, ex-Interment) doubled down upon his decree of bringing Centinex back as a more straightforward classic death metal influenced act remained true but their core sound hasn’t the slightest inkling of that strong melodic past. I’d suggest that the melodic peak of the band’s output came with the conjoined efforts of guitarist Andreas Evaldsson and perhaps more importantly Kenneth Wiklund who appeared to be the heart of that melodic output, resulting in (‘Reflections‘, 1997) and (‘Reborn Through Flames‘, 1998). Though I pine for the drum machine melodic death of the past this present day version of Centinex isn’t anything to sneer at. This time around the band has been entirely restaffed beyond Schulman, now including old friends from Incarnated, Abhoth, as well as the drummer from thrashers Skulldrain and this means even less of the fire felt on ‘Redeeming Filth‘ (2014) persists on the heavily groove oriented ‘Death in Pieces’, which might be Centinex approaching their most digestible and standardized fare to date.

In terms of render and general sound design this is the punchiest, most vivid production under Centinex‘ belt to date. They’ve once again gone with Johan Hjelm for the recording, enlisting him as producer in full this time, and in turn gain the sensibilities that’d made Defaced Creation and Aeon so special on record back in the early 2000’s. Where I grow a bit wary is the groove/death metal feeling of the album, I can get past the void of typical Swedish melodic death metal tropes easily but, I’ve not been able to look past the mid-paced and quite standard riffing that guides the album. Beyond some exciting mosh parts and big off-kilter grooves it’d taken many listens to start finding parts that’d really stood out or didn’t just feel a bit plain for this long-standing project. This will not be an issue if you were a fan of ‘Doomsday Rituals‘ but I’d say that album felt pretty damned extreme by comparison, and neither hold up next to the glorious sleekness of Demonical‘s ‘Chaos Manifesto‘ a couple of years back, which I suppose has the melodious spirit I’d been looking for in the first place. Looking past all expectations and taking ‘Death in Pieces’ for what it is I was able to enjoy the album as a companion to recent records from Entrails, Desultory, and the countless projects coming from the Paganizer family of products. It moves beyond the desire to reignite ‘Subconscious Lobotomy’ and makes the “easy” choice to resemble Stockholm death metal circa the late 90’s and this certainly isn’t a bad thing if you’re looking for a non death n’ roll chunk of classic Swedish death metal style.

Within the space of roughly a dozen full spins of this ~33 minute album I’d found myself pausing between songs with increasing frequency, not only to listen to other things but to revisit prior Centinex albums as I tried to follow the thread leading up to this one. Encapsulated and aimed at early obscure glory, the last six years of releases since reforming make sense removed from the band’s earlier discography and with consideration for the many line-up changes. Yet when I sat there quizzing myself (after each full listen) for a favorite riff or heaviest moment within I’d repeatedly draw a blank. “Only Death Remains” arrives with plenty of power and a catchy enough main riff progression, “Tomb of the Dead” has a satisfying Swedish death metal stomp to it, and “Pieces” resembles a classic thrash feeling “lead-in” piece that helps to introduce “Cauterized” and its strong early Obituary-esque energy. That start to Side B was eventually the point where Centinex began to win me over this time around, not only for the classic Swedish death metal crunch it’d kick around but with appreciation for how simple they’ve kept this record, which seems like an intentional choice to stay focused on groove and high fidelity. Every piece is easily read and quickly digested without any forced pretense and I totally appreciate that reality. I’m all for ease and heaviness being the focus, though I’d definitely found myself wanting for some guitar solos, brutality and stronger pace changes to break things up more often.

The eleventh cycle through the annals of Centinex ends up being a reasonable and generally above average experience. Nothing is shocking, there are few forward thinking aspects ingested by way of the full listen but the payoff is an accessible and sharply produced Swedish death metal record in the most standard, exemplar sense. Even though I was left wanting more riffs, more brutality, and more lead guitar work to connect with I was able to set aside those basal needs enough to appreciate ‘Death in Pieces’ for how straightforward it is. The punchier, more present hit of the production makes for a very repeatable album without any pieces I’d skip or find too overtly repetitive within its half hour full listen. High short term value sustained me for quite a few spins but I’d ultimately need more than a set of ‘Massive Killing Capacity’-level grinders to keep my brain engaged for months (well, years) on end. If the major goal was to create a meaningful chasm between Demonical and Centinex then I’d say this is a step in the right direction and an album I can give moderate recommendation of for its professional sound and repeatable full listen.

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Artist Centinex
Type Full-length
Released May 29, 2020
BUY & LISTEN on Agonia Records’ Bandcamp! Centinex on Facebook
Genre Death Metal

Moderate recommendation. 3.5/5.0

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