DEVOID OF THOUGHT – Outer World Graves (2021)REVIEW

As is the case with many young and impatiently evolving death metal bands still putting in their dues towards distinctive mastery today we see a high-rate, high IQ proliferation of idealized phonemes intensifying the mark left by each new release from northern Italian atmospheric death metal quartet Devoid of Thought. Attaining the bidirectional, self-scouring mania of millennium-adjacent death metal transcendentalism through eye-crossing riffs and cavernous doom’s implication their debut full-length album, ‘Outer World Graves‘, manifests as a flattening, terrifyingly dense walk against the waves. Beyond a few impressive mountainous climbs and tension-bound, yet jaggedly scrawled, pockets of rhythmic intensity the full listen will not likely trigger a great deal of traumatic riff-based memories for most listeners to start. We are at the whim of the conductor and his eddying tides for the sake of appreciating the tormented motion created atop the otherwise idea-rich experience ’til the celestial voodoo-sway and angular muse of their riffcraft becomes second nature to the ear via earnest immersion. Only then, on subsequent passes through, do the finer details of the full listen avail themselves of keenest entranced analysis. A thousand-toothed “grower” unto chasm mouth, if you will.

Devoid of Thought is a deep uproot-and-pivot away from the classic thrash metal beginnings of the quartet, whom still feature the original membership when formed as Warstorm in 2011 before changing name and vision in 2016; It was a decisive choice for a new path forward in most every respect but even today we can hear some of their increasingly cerebral thrash metal roots in the finalized versions of early pieces under this new name (“Sidereal Necrosis”, especially). Though they’d intend to land upon the realm of atmo-brutalized death a la Timeghoul and (early) Blood Incantation the compositional steepness that expresses within ‘Outer World Graves’ specifically recalls the dizzying advancement of ‘Gateways to Annihilation’-era Morbid Angel, peak Immolation-esque dirging dissonance and the murk n’ riff stability of Temple Nightside‘s best. This is especially true as we rip into Side A of their newest material beyond the previous demo tapes: ‘Astral Necrosis‘ (2017) and ‘Cosmic Apoptosis‘ (2019) where we could more or less see the general direction Devoid of Thought were pursuing as steadfast. At face value, we can now pair the oeuvre of those earlier releases with that of freshened abysm-bound ideals, comparable to those found in top-tier nowadays atmospheric death metal groups such as Atavisma, Into Coffin and Void Rot. We shouldn’t forget that these are yet fans of classicist form-makers such as Voivod as the deeper layers of the full listen will yet reveal.

Though I am most awakened when tasked as an obsessive riff detector the bigger picture begs a bit more attention as we consider the black-and-grey illustrative sci-fi horrors that serve as the visual world-building for their forms, be it flyers, their Funebrarum-sharp angles of their logo, or the rabid pen strokes of View From the Coffin perfectly suiting a mindset and vision tailored for ‘Outer World Graves’. Much as I prefer a color rich vision of the outer reaches, the consistency of Devoid of Thought‘s aesthetic design has been effective in terms of keying into a love for an ‘old school’ demo tape minded approach and the result has a late 90’s anti-computer generated sophistication to it which is fitting for atmospherically inclined death metal but, also provides some inclination of an organic hand in creation (see also: Execration‘s ‘Return to the Void’). For the sake of not taking a crowbar to the music itself right away, these sentiments are meant to illustrate an underground death metal event, mulling over the deep space plunge of Devoid of Thought‘s own ‘caverncore’-adjacent sound design which reverberates across the span of its five song, ~40 minute run.

What is eldest is perfected, what is newest serves as the key beyond the gates — The first or, at least most easily observed path of progress can be drawn between three previously demoed songs and their on-album counterparts, starting with ‘Astral Necrosis’ highlight “Sidereal Breath” which serves as the most drastic revamp on ‘Outer World Graves’ in its final form as “Sidereal Necrosis”, though the meter and certain riffs are recognizable it is worth some amount of awe-inspiration to directly compare the rephrased form of the song with the original. Fans of Siderean and Cryptic Shift should appreciate this thrashing, more intricately woven side of the band, which is likewise echoed on another reworked piece, “Stargrave” (demoed on ‘Cosmic Apoptosis’), which serves up a sort of muddier early Bølzer influenced riff. “Four Cerulean Ways” (originally on their split with Into Coffin) is a less intense reworking beyond it’s stunningly composed introduction, basically perfecting the meter of the chaotic runs in the piece, letting the death/doom presence ring out a bit longer while emphasizing the core melody of the song otherwise. I don’t step past these three pieces quickly because they aren’t exceptional, this is the carapace and verdant blood of the full listen, but the larger statement to make is that they’ve elevated each one beyond their original form. The expectations set by the first single, “Sidereal Breath“, had already revealed the upped ante and I can only relay that ‘Outer World Graves’ more than delivers.

Which portal will transcend? — It will take just a moment of guitar feedback before all corporeal matter is transmogrified as “Perennial Dream” justifies in full most previous allusions to various Incantation and Timeghoul-esque entities yet it isn’t until we’re ready to kick off the incredible ~11.5 minute sojourn of “Effigies” that a key hint of Azagthothian guile wheels into view. Between these two songs we can first appreciate drummer Davide Botturi as a major force applied throughout this album with a great sense for generating momentum that exists beyond the usual ‘easy’ brutality, this is especially notable as the song begins to express its greater rhythmic arc of tension and release, usually culminating in frantic leads or blackened jets of tremolo picked furor. More than once I found myself sitting in reflection assured that “Effigies” is the most remarkably potent piece from Devoid of Thought to date but all the while considering it as a piece within a greater being; Excise one piece, one riff or eerily doubled lead from the mix and the whole of the organism would be affected in a serious way. I suppose the actual point to make is that ‘Outer World Graves’ is beautifully presented as a full listen and feels “complete” in statement from the very first listen. What sets the experience apart, and has my recommendation clicking up well above average? It all boils down to the riffs, this thing has ’em front to back and sideways — They’re all mind-flayer worthy creeps and wild-assed crooked stabs well worth repeating for weeks or months on end. I’ll leave the hot spots for you discover yourself. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (90/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
TITLE:Outer World Graves
LABEL(S):Everlasting Spew Records,
Caligari Records
RELEASE DATE:August 27th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Death Metal,
Death/Doom Metal,

Atmospheric Death Metal

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