ROTTEN TOMB – Visions of a Dismal Fate (2022)REVIEW

Eternally seething landscapes, salted with gunpowder and thriving beyond historical conquer, the sun-ridden bustle of Iquique today has no apparent bearing upon the perfect putridity of Northern Chilean quartet Rotten Tomb‘s assault as they present one of the most imposing, true to form ‘old school’ death metal debuts of the year. There exists a great distance between musicians who’d attempt a loose, mostly aesthetic classicist death metal sound and those who would naturally create an idealized vision of it from their own genuine taste. ‘Visions of a Dismal Fate‘ does not ask the listener to gauge its member’s authenticity but instead presents an undeniably substantive, destructive work with well-developed and personalized style in droves. Delivering their curse without so much as a glance back over their shoulder, the eight doomed-over and chasm resonant pieces herein provide every indication that these fellowes live and breathe the real thing and there’ll be no denying the addictive nature of these ‘contact high’ achieved coffin fumes on my part.

When Rotten Tomb formed circa 2016 between Deathbringer of Atomicide and ex-Excised guitarist C.G. their focus wouldn’t necessarily shift wildly within those first two years of activity, taking clear cues from early United States death metal’s east coast classics, showing some shared love for the thrashing and wailing Florida and New Jersey pre-1992 sects, which’d personally reminded me of the second Brutality record to some degree on those early promos and the ‘Necropolis‘ (2017) EP until they released their incredible ‘Eternal Cycle of Death‘ EP later that same year and -that- sort of ‘The Karelian Isthmus‘ (or ‘Lost Paradise‘ as they suggest nowadays) meets ‘Dawn of Possession‘-esque sound had appeared to be the right stuff for their tastes, even cutting a surprisingly worthy cover of Incantation‘s “Golgotha” at the end, a rarely solid feat from my experience. This’d been likely their intended style from the start of we wheel back to their first promo tracks in 2016 and it really didn’t take long before Rotten Tomb had found a line-up and their own angle upon this form of death metal which lurks as if death/doom but doesn’t necessarily orbit the extreme doom sphere in full. All indications beyond 2017 have been that they were on the verge of their own sound and with ‘Visions of a Dismal Fate‘ I’d say they’ve struck the right golden ratio.

If you’ve kept up with my raving for long enough you’ll understand why I was frothing at the ears the moment I’d hit play on opener “Devourer of Life” as the tom rolls from drummer A. Prophaner (Hades, ex-Necropsia) immediately trigger a communion with the artist/engineer’s (Pablo Clares/DM6 Studios) intended sonic reference wherein my personal favorite records such as ‘Schizophrenia‘ and ‘Pleasure to Kill‘ alongside the original mix of Gorement‘s debut are referenced in a small yet frequent way, setting me back in the pre-1993 era of death metal where those late 80’s death-thrash metal records were still vital to both European and South American extreme metal voices. It is a simple touch and even a small one for many listeners but it counts for something that Rotten Tomb were speaking my language from the first hit of the drums. The song itself presents several facets of the quartet’s sound, roaring vocals and thunder-set guitar tones with lead melodies etched within tremolo-driven verses — All of it emitting force yet speaking to the doomed aura of the record itself, if you can imagine the feeling of a record like ‘The Gloomy Reflection of Our Hidden Sorrows‘ but delivered with far more patient pacing and higher fidelity you’ll have some sense of what an entrance this ominous piece is.

Rotten Tomb‘s songcraft speaks to detailed mastery in shaping heaviness without becoming convoluted, understanding musical cues (cause and effect, stage-revealed presentation) rather than blandly replicating patchworked ideals, this differentiates their sound from a lot of the weaker faux ‘old school’ death metal out of the United States and Europe today simply because I don’t believe any of these lifelong thrashers have roots in silly shit like metalcore. A certain ruthless attunement, an ear for brutality, sustains pieces like “Human Paradox” with perfectly set guitar strangling leads and cold-hammered tremolo showering blasts with plenty of vestigial reverb making the whole affair and incredible plunge into Eldritch catechism. Though they’ve presented horror and muscle up front by the time we are in the throes of “Forgotten Graveyard” you’ll have witnessed what I’d consider the edge which Rotten Tomb have over most bands whom play a similar style, some strong melodic sense coming together for a best-rounded and memorable yet not overstated piece. Doing this without losing the murderous attitude of pure death metal is rare enough that I’d absolutely caught a severe body high in discovering this piece in conjunction with the two songs that preceded it. This sort of thrill just never hits me anymore with modern ‘old school’ death metal imitation and it is a feeling well worth savoring these days.

Still only on Side A and needless to say ‘Visions of a Dismal Fate‘ only continues to impress as they make good on this marriage of earliest Paradise Lost death/doom nascence and the heaviness of early Immolation, a mixture which might recall the trepidation of earlier ‘To Mega Therion‘ influenced death/doom metal bands of the late 80’s when Rotten Tomb hit their slowest points, not that they’re wandering as much as Winter‘s debut but there is the sense that these are similarly primal doom acts, voiced with an alienated aggression (see: “Denial, Desolation, Resignation”, “Pest Winds”) which pairs well with the thick and devastatingly heavy production values which kick up to peak resonance in the faster pieces on the record. Side B has that energy as it fires up with “Inner Fear” but it isn’t long before the band are peaking within their exploration of Incantation-esque brutality with the next few songs. This pit of the second half is arguably where it all comes together for the full force of the ideal in mind, I’d say “Near End” has that perfect mix of hammering death and Finndeath-doomed wandering spirited movement and matches the quality and excitement the first half of the record built.

The listening experience here is in the best tradition of doomed ‘old school’ death metal, an intently focused event delivered with conviction yet one that delivers enough style that it stands out within the greater packed spheres of Chilean death metal as a whole these days. Though loving their sound and taste in riffs was a huge part of my induction into ‘Visions of a Dismal Fate‘ what’d gotten me to stick around time and time again for the full listen was the next song around the corner always threatening to be as great or better than the last, each bearing its own central statement, stylistic flourish, or just destructive (or melodic) riff that’d made each spin perpetually gratifying. A simple thing I could say about many death metal records but in my book, only the best practically force another listen with such momentum. Highest possible recommendation, a major release for my own taste in classicist death metal attack.

Highest recommendation. (100/100)

Rating: 10 out of 10.
TITLE:Visions of a Dismal Fate
LABEL(S):Crypts of Eternity Productions
RELEASE DATE:March 1st, 2022

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