OCCULSED – Crepitation of Phlegethon (2021)REVIEW

A rawest, brutally thumped-out slurry of distortion fried United States underground death metal idealism quickly sums the filthier-than-thou signature developing between this merger of three prolific underground extreme metal musicians who comprise Occulsed. The feat to tout here isn’t how sparklingly well the trio gel into an ultra-pro supergroup but instead that the collective nausea achieved, a maniacal mess made throughout ‘Crepitation of Phlegethon‘ which clashes in such a spectacular way that it bears repeating. The heft and horror this outlier force’ve managed to glom into this work as a nowadays death metal band carries some appreciably disturbing grit, not only for its aesthetics and sound design but by virtue of the whole experience not once appearing like follower scum, or, at least not aiming for an obviate lowest common denominator. It isn’t a memorable or ‘easy’ listen and you’re going to get the spins but chasing the slime trail of this beast’s severed tentacle down into the pits will ultimately leave its intended impression.

Fear, emptiness, disgust. The curdled stomach of extreme metal’s initiation, a fight-or-flight reaction that sends you hurtling right into the many-clawed arms of death riff inspired eustress is the appropriate reaction to immersion here and this isn’t at all uncommon in the realm of Jared Moran (Filtheater, Acausal Intrusion, Gastric Phantasm, et. al) whom is intensely prolific within and well-attuned to organic forms of brutal death metal; I mention the fellow first because his “warts and all” approach to drumming is instantly recognizable here if you’re familiar with that larger body of work and because I think this pairs unto spectacular abomination with co-songwriter, guitarist and bassist Justin Stubbs (Encoffination, Father Befouled) lending his own chaotic carve to their shared movements. It is kind of cheesy to suggest if you’d like their other work that this will be a good fit as well but it is largely true. This makes the final confounding variable, vocalist Kenneth Parker, an important third leg of distinction. I am such a fan of his band Maestus that I’d like to fawn over that a bit here but, the relevant note here is his recent EP with Paraphilia, ‘Primordium of Sinister Butchery’, because his vocals on that record were a particular standout and it helps to be able to juxtapose that performance with this one. The ability to finesse and tune death metal vocals to fit a band with a similar mindset, but different pacing and style, is worthy of some serious praise. So, as much as I hate doing the resume rundown these folks merge for the sake of forms in mind and the result isn’t predictably lain.

Early brutal death metal demos circa 1989-1995 from the Midwest and southern United States should be the major expectation listeners should arrive with; This means mid-to-fast paced attacks ranging from 2-5 minutes, simpler descending grooves, and a tempo map that kicks around as if portraying supernatural violence. That said, we can generally stick to the ideals upheld by Infester, (early) Incantation, Blaspherian, and perhaps Morpheus Descends if we don’t just limit our stretch to ‘Ritual of Infinity’ and consider some of their slower death/doom and atmospheric death metal moments from each band beyond that point. Not a full picture of what Occulsed are all about but there is a masochistic, suffocating atmosphere to ‘Crepitation of Phlegethon’ which we’d not fully gotten on their first demos, ‘Cenotaph to Putridity‘ (2019) and ‘Ceremonial Lifelessness‘ (2020). The last third of “Peryphlegethonic Mindflaying” first caught my ear in this sense but the real eased-in torture killers come a bit later with the second half of “Concupiscence Of Frenzied Humors” and the clutch favorite “The Soul’s Admonishment”. I’m the type who waits far beyond first impressions to find the artist’s best available pocket, so the second half of the album was where I built my shit-and-twig nest, specifically around “Death Of Ratiocination” because it seemed to reveal the variance of the tempo map and incorporate the generally rotten-doomed and brutal riff textures explored prior into one imposing yet succinct piece. If the intent is a foul brew, a noxious and unforgiving abysm of classic death metal textures wrought into a bone-lined sinkhole — I’m there, and ‘Crepitation of Phlegethon’ is a solid mutilation of classic atmospheric, weirding and mean-assed USDM traditions.

There will be no lasting gratification here if you aren’t a sick (alternately, miserable) bastard. Because of this, it’ll take some time to absorb and appreciate what Occulsed are up to within these grinding shadows. If the production had gone even a bit more caverncore, for example if the vocals were pushed any deeper beneath the drums, too much would’ve been lost. So the balance is just right for my taste, keeping in mind I lean towards realistic death metal performances rather than hard-handed studio polish. On that same note, I don’t think anyone will accuse this production/render as too clean or overwrought in any sense, it aims to be filthiness incarnate and the result is appropriate without losing key detail. ‘Crepitation of Phlegethon’ ultimately earns a spot in my mind palace for its warmed-over mutant assail, a blend of disinterred classicism and amped-up extremism which holds strong in mind for its uneasy spirit rather than any standout memorability. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (77/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Crepitation of Phlegethon
LABEL(S):Everlasting Spew Records
RELEASE DATE:September 17th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Death Metal

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