NULLIFICATION – Kingdoms to Hovel (2022)REVIEW

Appearing without any sort of grave warning after a year of honing, Filipino musician Jayson Gonzales‘ ‘old school’ death metal quartet Nullification present a neat and tidy full-length debut aimed squarely at the late 80’s thrash metal refined edge of death metal by way of the early 90’s in ‘Kingdoms to Hovel‘. Though the ~37 minute experience does not aim for any markedly original thought within the forum, this record’s redeeming strength places all emphasis on the body high of well-practiced classicist death metal riffing and adrenaline-anxious percussive force. As a debut this record justifies its simplicity with style, presenting a satisfyingly physical performance with strong muscle memory for a militant form of death metal purity still mindful of the arena-worthy bombast the sub-genre’d borrowed from the corpse of thrash metal mania. You’ll show up for the riffs and this’ll be substantial enough reward.

Gonzales was previously the bassist/vocalist for Laguna-based thrash ’til death-thrashers Desolator, having performed on their 2017 EP ‘Into the Snake Pit‘ and this was decidedly homebrewed classic thrash metal emulation with a bit of a James Reilly-esque snarl you’d expect from anything post-’99 worth a damn. In some sense Desolator (and Formless Odeon by association) have their own Thrash ’til Death narrative but their entire current line-up had been recruited for Nullification when it came time to record ‘Kingdoms to Hovel‘ and the synergies allowed by kinship and some shared taste have helped these recordings to reek of a certain authenticity — Classic thrashers make the best ‘new old school’ nostalgic death metal, inarguably. That said this is death metal influenced by death metal at its core with loose references to Mercyless, Pestilence, and early Malevolent Creation being warranted up front. For the deeper-initiated fandom expect a raggedness to the tempo map that’ll recall Jumpin’ Jesus sole masterpiece, some of the more refined riffing of Chemical Breath‘s equally thrashing ‘Fatal Exposure‘ and some strong wafts of Netherlands and U.K. death metal’s early 90’s thrash-minded underground echoes. This means you’re getting mid-paced double bass roll-outs and chugging tank-riffed movements amidst streaks of darting, angular death/thrash metal bounding.

There are a couple of trains of thought we could explore in examination of a project having officially formed in May of last year that’d completed their debut full-length album in June of that same year. Either the vision was ready and the execution came down to several weeks of practice and self-recording, or they’d cranked it out and filled in the blanks for the sake of spontaneity. The peak of ‘old school’ death metal, depending where you’d place it (’89-’92 for me), was arguably anything but spontaneous but a competitive focus on brutally driven, well-practiced professional athleticism amongst young folks who were pushing the limits of performance while often using similar points of reference. In this sense Nullification attain a decent ratio of this sound by sheer taste alone, being capable musicians who understand a bit of roughshod movement can do wonders for a sub-genre that relies on sheer attitude and sound design nowadays. Point being that ‘Kingdoms to Hovel‘ feels rushed and chaotic in the best way possible, managing just enough precision to fit in with the circa ’92 death metal mindset without the higher-brained songcraft or any sense of meaningful death/thrash fusion established.

“The Sledgehammer” makes it clear just how your day is going to go, clobbered by the blasts of distant garage-level death metal drumming evocative of Florida death metal’s breach beyond the 80’s and its reach within the more affluently connected sectors of Europe whom could afford a trip to Morrisound. It isn’t exactly ‘Cross the Styx’ but the dry-slapped and seething push of Nullification‘s introductory statement hits its target almost too well, having nowhere to go from that point in terms of riffcraft. Things get more moshable and inventive on “Calamity From the Skies” and all motion perfectly fits the bill yet the voicing of the riffs doesn’t quite hold up to comparable work from the old masters, they’ve just gotten the attack and the sound right. To be fair this fits in with a lot of my own listening habits following labels like FDA Records whom know a good ‘The Rack’-esque killer when they hear it and Nullification achieve this level of hard-thrashing pure early 90’s death metal nostalgia to similarly appreciable degree. The listening experience never falters in this sense and it’ll be a satisfying death metal album for anyone seeking out solid ‘old school’ death metal violence.

It ain’t that deep, eh. The appeal of ‘Kingdoms to Hovel‘ is instant and well sustained and there’ll be no reason to belabor that point any further. You’ll get it quick if you’re a die-hard ‘old school’ death metal head who is choice enough to avoid chuggin’ hardcore bro dredging and capable of recognizing a fine-ass death/thrash metal riff. With that said I don’t think Nullification have really blown me away beyond meeting a certain old standard, my leg isn’t kicking along and my eyes aren’t rolling back in my skull at those albeit entirely strong riff-focused moments. If they cut the chug and up the killing riff-tech the sweet spot is on the horizon for Nullification, not to mention these guys have some incredible potential for a great work after having cranked out this inspired and satisfyingly rough-edged debut in record time. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (70/100)

Rating: 7 out of 10.
TITLE:Kingdoms to Hovel
LABEL(S):Personal Records
RELEASE DATE:January 14th, 2022

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