In time, all of these emotions subsided – to be replaced by complete indifference. Sooner or later, hunger made everyone listless, unable to move or think. People sat on benches in their farmyards, beside the roadside, in their houses – and didn’t move. […] ‘It was a strange silence everywhere. Nobody cried, moaned, complained. Indifference was everywhere: people were either swollen or completely exhausted. Even a kind of envy was felt toward the dead.” Anne Applebaum, Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine

Too cruel to glorify in the slightest yet nonetheless awe-striking as a ruthless crime against humanity, it’d take just just a few generations of government denial and countless obliterated peasant communities to bury and intimidate away the still regionally denied genocide of four million people by the mass murder-by-starvation (Голодомо́р) of 1932-33 in Ukraine by way of Stalin‘s agricultural collectivization policies enforced upon the largely subsistence farming sustained ethnic Ukrainian population. The most debilitating and widespread aspect of a larger ‘dekulakization’ campaign against the nation, the brutal ransacking and forced uprooting of rural communities left both the defiant and the subservient starving to death alike in less than one year, leaving only shocking tales of familial cannibalism, hungered insanity, and depraved murder to stir us out of our own stomachs today. The worst of these accounts from survivors are not those who’d died fighting for their lives and/or wracked by insanity but the millions who’d realize within just a few days that they had no choice but to lay down and die en masse. The horror and the truth of death and suffering incited by governments on a massive scale should not strike us with dissociated empathy or sadistic awe but the same form of fiery, body-thrashing furor we see in the inspired reap of Chilean death/thrash metal duo Morbid Cruelty‘s diabolic debut album ‘Holodomor‘. These are not profound mediations on the subject of death but instead a physically-charged embodiment of terror, psychic assaults upon the unthinkable pain of life’s resignation and free-roaming insanity of famine expressed through a bastard of a riff-driven ‘evil’ thrash metal album.

If we look at the earlier releases on Burning Coffin Records back in 2019 the one demo band we hadn’t heard from since, the one I’ve been anticipating most beyond their first tape (‘Demo I‘, 2019), was Morbid Cruelty. This Santiago-based duo formed in 2018 between Matías Ubeda (Perversor) and Alvaro Llanquitruf (Atomic Aggressor) both of whom also feature/featured in pure death metal band Eaten Alive and a few other projects along the way. One spin of that demo probably didn’t impress many because of its fairly slow pace, darker black metal vocal and somewhat bestial movement. We are afforded a quasi-window into their development beyond that point by virtue of all three of those demo tracks being reworked but not stripped of their bones for ‘Holodomor’ and by observing these before-and-after changes it becomes clear that Morbid Cruelty found their inspiration and precision as a duo within that span of time. “Horrid Death” in particular stands out in mind for its raw and nuclear-decaying attack on the tape but it strolls at about a third the speed of the late 80’s death/thrash metal electrocution served within every moment of the full-length. Whatever vision I’d figured we’d get from these guys I did not realize ‘Holodomor’ would be so completely my jam a la the first records from Merciless, Insanity, and Sadus taken to the brutal extreme of their South American equivalency during that same time period, somewhere between the first Torturer record and ‘Tribulated Bells’ if they had been more influenced by speed/thrash metal in terms of both riff and production. This is a serious leap for such a new project, going from a sorta evil death metal demo to a serious as Hell underground death/thrash metal record in less than two years deserves some serious praise from my unhealthily death/thrash obssessed point of view.

The artwork is great, their logo is just perfect, the theme is almost too brutal to consider, but I’m here for the guitar work — Although I’ve showed up as a representative of the cult of death/thrash riffs, 80’s death metal-adjacent mania, and brutal thrash metal tonality the rhythm section largely serves to bent between these forces “The Grey Day of the Massgrave” perfectly embodies the key traits of a former speed metal band transitioning into early 90’s death metal drumming, fully working out the double-bass steamroller and a big, percussive bass guitar tone that slams around the recording like a box of nails in the back of a truck a la ‘Spectrum of Death’ or even ‘Swallowed in Black’ at times. The “Fire, Death, Fate”-era Insanity sized breaks around the ~2:00 minute mark are brief but do a fine job of indicating that we’re not getting plain worship of one scene but the best of classic death/thrash metal’s high-speed rhythmic flash. Of course I could namedrop and ramble on about a hundred bands for the sake of overstating a love for the best of late 80’s thrash metal meeting up with the brutality of death metal but the core experience a lot of them share is a type of intense patternation developed several generations beyond ‘Terrible Certainty’ (“Petrifying Trauma”) and ‘Altars of Madness’ (“Unholy Vengeance”) and even this is a gross oversimplification of the riffcraft on hand here, which shouldn’t be viewed as a direct also-ran of any particular classic.

Any band capable of ending their album with a near perfect cover of Incubus‘ (Georgia, United States) finest four minutes “God Died on His Knees” probably should, a serious tribute to an obscure three song wonder which serves to reinforce the ideal that ‘Holodomor’ persists with throughout its ~43 minute run. “Engulfed by the Visions” echoes that vision with strong technique and melody and this is where I’d felt Morbid Cruelty were able to convince me this debut was something more than just a riff obsession. Its bopping ‘Swallowed in Black’-esque refrain shows some serious taste (or study) of the tools available to this craft that many bands overlook for the sake of chipping away at ‘Tortured Existence’ variations and this is rare enough that I’d felt it well worth praise as a moment within a song that continues to floor me. Again, I could go on and on about this record but you’ve gotten the idea: An impressive redirection towards death/thrash metal beyond their demo. Riffs, all damn day. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (90/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Burning Coffin Records
RELEASE DATE:August 15th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Death/Thrash Metal,
Death Metal

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