Death is nothing to us; for the body, when it has been resolved into its elements, has no feeling, and that which has no feeling is nothing to us.” Epicurus, Principal Doctrines

Sitting down and soaking in the major milestone that ‘Demise‘ represents for twice resurrected Windsor, California death metal quartet Laceration is a profound experience not only as an adult-sized and properly sorted debut full-length but for the waves of collapse and rebirth they’d left in their wake getting there, discovering their rhythm after climbing uphill rather than taking any sort of pay-to-play escalator to the top. To the outsider it will appear as any other ‘old school’ death metal made beyond the late 90’s does, nostalgic by way of a less commercialized vision of the sub-genre prior to 1993 — Purposefully ignorant of any/all competitive extremist’s version of “progress”, a clock turned back to late 80’s thrash metal influenced standards of old and revised into an incredibly detailed audio-visual package that speaks clearly and coherently to Death. From my point of view there is no better tradition within United States-spawned music than this death-thrashing meditation upon mortality, suffering, mayhem and the riff yet, I know I am an outlier in this sense and it will prove somewhat straight-forward to the laymen otherwise.

For those of us raised on proper thrash metal and soon after indoctrinated by classic death metal a band like Laceration may as well be a giant red neon sign in the shop window that says “Riffs Here” and though they’d taken a few demos beyond forming in 2006 to hit the machine-like precision needed to invoke late 80’s death/thrash metal standards it was clear they were getting somewhere vital by 2012. I believe when I reviewed their recent compilation album (‘Remnants‘, 2019) I’d suggested “had the project continued without the break they’d have headed in a ’92 death metal direction” and well, that is exactly how I would frame ‘Demise’ if we can consider Malevolent Creation‘s ‘The Ten Commandments’, Pestilence ‘Consuming Impulse’ and Suffocation ‘Human Waste’ as important influences or at least stylistic markers in terms of riff composition, guitar tone, pacing, and general standards of quality. Instead of pointing to an album like Solstice‘s ‘Pray’ or Demented Ted‘s debut for a bit more keen ’94-’95 reference as to what was next… it actually makes more sense to push into the present day evolution of bands that Laceration could view as peers in Skeletal Remains and Rapture (Greece), as each features similar influences from the classics of the era while also having some history of Demolition Hammer influenced riffcraft in the past. With ‘Demise’ we are getting a window into this worldview, an ultra traditional result that has clearly been mulled over and perfected as a full album listening experience to hold up as close to par with the classics of that era as possible.

‘Demise’ is the kind of record you grind beneath your skin, a riff tattoo you warp your damn mind with via countless, seemingly endless shreds through its tunnel of head-down, guitars out traditional death metal roar. It isn’t particularly catchy, or technical, nor do these guys play so fast that you’ll lose your shit but the merciless erosion that Laceration provides is, again, an authentic approximation of the kinda Slayer-assed death metal we were getting out of Florida after ‘Altars of Madness’ left the mold wet and pliable going forward. The most plausible comparison you’ll get out of anyone is of course early Malevolent Creation, up ’til about ‘Stillborn’ but with a big, very slightly percussive bass guitar tone you’d expect from a tech thrash leaning group via that brutal late 80’s death/thrash sound. The main difference between the early 90’s and now should be clear to the long time fans as this is a loose-shouldered and straight-faced death metal album that never sounds anxietous or strained, nor is there any sort of flamboyant or over the top showmanship involved; They get in and grind eleven 3-5 minute tracks in a row then duck out. Not even a bit of flash beyond some acoustic guitar along the way. In this sense Laceration couldn’t be more tailored to folks who want nothing more than the quality and timbre of the classics revived and reimagined via different permutations. This isn’t too far from what I’d said a couple years ago comparing their formative sound to the best of brutal thrash metal just they’re on the death metal side of the fence on official terms here.

As much time as I’d spent piecing together the lyrical themes of “Verbal Expiration”, “Bed of Nails” and the transcendental “Monolith” it’d hit me more than once how easy it was to get blown past this fairly intricate and steadily presented pieces, each packed with seeming mid-paced movements that are all ground-out at a brutal, steam rolling pace. The momentum isn’t apparent until it comes time to start picking favorite riffs, moments and songs on the album and finding no one ripping thrash moment arrives out of nowhere to break up the churn as Laceration composed these pieces much like a late 80’s thrash metal band would, a bloody tract of riffs that build upon each other largely inching over sheets of double-bass rolling motion. In this sense there is more Morbid Angel in their action than I’d really appreciated due to some more obvious choices along the way. I’m not all that familiar with their new drummer Faustino beyond checking out Infernal Damnation but he most definitely is the rock that keeps this record barreling along and the recording/sound design sets the drums beautifully as present yet set right behind the riffs, kicking them along in a way that outclasses a lot of Laceration‘s previous recordings.

For my own taste the big song here that shocked my shit loose was “Perpetual Sickness”, maybe the first several pieces had whittled away the dead skin clogging my ears at that point but the call-and-response riffs that kick it off, the whammy dive-bombs, and the cut to the single guitar before the full force of the song hits all comes together for an early Suffo-level chaingun of a moment that continues to build as the song calls back to those opening riffs. We’re past admiring whatever nostalgic sound Laceration‘ve conjured at this point and getting to the deeper cuts and heavier neck-breathing brutality as we cross the threshold to Side B. I knew it was a keeper at this point but I’d say others results will vary because there are about 2-3 too many songs here that only serve to nail the greater action home. Since I as already familiar with the songs that were originally on the ‘Imitation’ (2018) demo, it was admittedly kind of shocking to return to a tape I’d loved and realized how far their trip was to the result we get here on ‘Demise’. That said, I’d have chopped “Imitation” (or, “Inhumation”) to keep the running order potent and avoid some of the inevitable dragging along the way. Not that I’ve had an issues with the listening experience, at one point I’d left this album on for six hours straight while I worked and probably spent another two with it that evening. That maybe says more about my own natural listening habits than it does about ‘Demise’ but, this one never got old or irritating during the four weeks I spent regularly spinning it. Couldn’t possibly walk away from this one without a very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (90/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Rotted Life Records
RELEASE DATE:July 16th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Death Metal,
Death/Thrash Metal

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