WOMBRIPPER – Macabre Melodies (2020)REVIEW

Persistent, unanimously flooded, and regionally defining as the major boon of melodic death metal acts across Scandinavia might’ve been the deeper cuts are yet reburied and “off trend” in recent years. The “true” stuff that befouled the underground years before (and after) the Svensk suburban copycats and vague foreign imitations began to glut the world over remains an entirely rewarding pursuit. From Evocation and Crown of Thorns testing the waters subtly to Eucharist taking the full plunge on the vastly underrated ‘Mirrorworlds’ all the way back to the ‘Master of Puppets’-infused bullet spray of Excretion‘s ‘Voice of Harmony’ it won’t take too much digging to find ballsy, riff kicking melodic death metal that had the right idea about death metal with pronounced melody. Getting lost in the woods with these sorts of bands is a lot of fun yet it does call upon an important fact many overlook, Dismember were actually pretty damned melodic beyond their first album. Representing some of the most throat-ripping and ear boxing ultra HM-2 driven Swedish death metal worship the world over Nizhny Novgorod, Russia-based trio Wombripper had more or less clubbed the skull of the Stockholm sound to mush with their 2018 debut ‘From the Depths of Flesh‘ and as badass as it was they’ve not been intent on plain iteration since. Their second album, ‘Macabre Melodies’, speaks for itself immediately with a very clear voice and despite this directness it must be stated that this is an incredibly successful rendering of classic melodic death metal, the shit that never went “soft” or feigned any maudlin affect.

Before diving into the glorious world of non-shit melodic death metal from the early-to-mid 90’s I will make it clear that the ‘old’ Wombripper is still viably achieved and that their exuberant debut still bounces in for the attack throughout ‘Macabre Melodies’, (see: “Wicked Breed”) the major difference is that this follow-up achieves some frighteningly effective render of what bands were doing under the glowing light of ‘Terminal Spirit Disease’. These guys have worked hard for about a decade in finding their path from the relatively primitive Nirvana 2002 crunch of their first demo (‘Morbid Aberrations‘, 2014) with its digital sounding distortion up through the snare-clapping rollercoaster blast of (‘Infected Tomb‘, 2017) where the band had really found their original stride. What was most special about Wombripper to start wasn’t in full view until their Entrails-esque (foreshadowing: or Fleshcrawl) focus on extended and quite groove-heavy riffing via their debut, it wasn’t a high-budget album or anything truly original but man, what an elite specimen it was compared to just about everything else driven by the HM-2 infection; Go jam “The Suicidal Recreation” and tell me that doesn’t just bounce harder than even the biggest bands wielding the Stockholm/Sunlight Studios sound today. It was an exemplar feat and no doubt the expectation was for iteration beyond that first album. What’d impressed me right off the bat firing up ‘Macabre Melodies’ was that Wombripper took a full head-first dive into melodic death metal, looking back over their shoulder but, only to make sure they were still representing ancient and immortal death metal.

A lot of this Russian style overachievement certainly stems from some supreme love of Dismember‘s full discography where they would incorporate death n’ roll in the late 90’s, melodic death metal beyond the first album, and perhaps keep those thread going better than any of their peers (save Unleashed) for years. Many folks forget the 2000’s were fucking glorious for Dismember especially on the vastly underrated ‘The God that Never Was‘ (2006). This is almost where I’d say the bigger picture of what makes ‘Macabre Melodies’ special is, in view of that arc but pushing it away from rock solos and subtle riffing towards the mid-90’s cults and mysteries where bands like Gates of Ishtar and especially Intestine Baalism found a way forward for melodeath that wasn’t too cheaply imitative or… fuckin’ cheerful; ‘The Energemenus‘ demo is underrated and largely unknown but it is yet one of the best frames of reference for what to expect from Wombripper, a little bit of a ‘Clandestine’ rip, plenty of slick Gothenburg grind n’ melodic ideas, and these enormous plunges into fairly extensive riffs. Although we can absolutely do better than that if we look to Dismember influenced bands like Fleshcrawl, who aren’t necessarily remembered for their post-‘Impurity’ works. Push all the way up to ‘Bloodred Massacre‘ in 1997 and we’ve struck gold. HM-2 bursts, real blasting death metal soul, and highly melodic structures. This is ultimately the righteous expression of the lineage and where one can base their high expectations for Wombripper today. So, don’t expect something as slick as Uncanny’s debut or as hook-oriented as ‘Terminal Spirit Disease’ but a record that would have been more than viable in their midst back in 1994 or 1998 for that matter.

Ten songs, two distinct halves and much more than mere melodic death metal worship ‘Macabre Melodies’ isn’t just a shift in focus but a far more capable and musical release than anything Wombripper had accomplished prior. The full length of the album is yet somewhat front loaded with melodic interest and that’d be why I focused my energy onto those achievements first, Side A or the first five songs generally sticks as close to the intimate hooks of melodic death metal as possible, landing just short of the four minute mark on each piece. As we move to Side B or the last five songs on the album things grind down harder and slow to a deathly ‘Mental Funeral’ pace as we hit their most thoughtful, mid-to-slow paced songs: “Devastation into Waste”, “Already Dead” and dramatic closer “Fractures”. So, don’t think you’re just getting a melodic death metal angle but also the Autopsy-esque doomed pallor Wombripper have always snuck into each release. So, how valuable will it be to pick through the details of each song? I’m not sure that will be the gateway to enjoyment here, the standout tracks make themselves quite obvious but one could easily argue that the first half of the album is flawless and the only thing that halts that momentum is the need for a point of respite, which is offered by interlude “Macabre Void”. A rest I didn’t need but a bookmark that allows for some preparation for the bigger, longer songs of Side B. The songs that’ll sell the album outright (“Possessed by Unknown”, “Obscurity Depths”) are notably placed early on in the tracklist though if you’re a bit more of a Vanhelgd head like I am a piece like “Devastation Into Waste” is just as exciting.

Do we have a modern classic on our hands? You know I could only hope folks will pick this album up and get more fuckin’ curious about all the hard as nails melodic death metal lost to time and dust in the mid-90’s and in that sense it is a beacon, a very bright light upon everything that was tasteful and cool as fuck about melodic death metal before the commercialized Gothenburg stuff slapped it out of underground claws. In this sense ‘Macabre Melodies’ is a big success, a vital representation of melodic death metal from a true death metal perspective, raw and merciless in its upscaling attack. Despite this description Wombripper have crafted a very well-rounded and quite easy to spin record, a succinct but dynamic running order with two distinct sides to its greater experience. Without question, a high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Macabre Melodies
LABEL(S):Memento Mori
RELEASE DATE:October 26th, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats],
Memento Mori Store
GENRE(S):Death Metal,
Melodic Death Metal

Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:

Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.

1.00 $