WRITHING SHADOWS – Writhing Shadows (2022)REVIEW

Finally fully necrodermis-sheathed and in one hundred percent complete bio-transference unto four undying bodies, the single-minded and likely Necron-aligned fluency of Birmingham, Alabama-based death metal band Writhing Shadows finds a refreshingly coherent string of brutal metallic hardcore stomping and gutter-dooming death noise on this, thier debut full-length statement. ‘Writhing Shadows‘ merely make it official here with a minimal yet potently stated spin, introducing a modicum of new ideas for the folks nipping hottest at their heels for more while likewise providing pro versions of a few of their biggest demo-era tracks for the sake of posterity. Their slo-mo grooves are considerably fat throughout, they’ve got some creeper death-doomed flabbin’ around the edges for flavor, and despite the raw and straight-forward clank of it all the quartet have managed just enough of a killer app here to make their name one worth repeating.

As a fool who’d been on board with tough guy hardcore vocals in death metal at least a decade before it was considered even remotely cool, not to mention groove metal’s awful applications to death metal in the late 90’s (now there‘s a list worth making), I fully -get- the appeal of what Writhing Shadows are doing here albeit in a very different context than their major twentysomething social media booger demographic might. It goes a long way towards choosing not to link most of what ‘Writhing Shadows‘ does to an altogether different lineage of Bolt Thrower influenced death metal that’d picked up some prominence after the still influential band (basically) called it quits in 2006. Groups like Slugathor, War Master, and Vore didn’t necessarily make waves, eh, but rather carried the torch along with many others to varying results, most often maligned as ‘unoriginal’ prior to the explosion of popular death metal/crust punk hybrids in the late 2000’s/early 2010’s. Sure man, Writhing Shadows sound something like Bolt Thrower but it’ll be worthwhile to look under the hood and poke around their gig rather than just, I dunno, skimming the surface like a mindless goddamned self-serving populist consumer feigning interest in underground music’s intended counter-cultural purpose.

If we were just looking at (‘The Devourment of God’s People‘, 2020) demo tape I’d probably have slapped ’em on the tank and said “For fans of: Chainsword, Decaying, etc.” and similarly modern day groups whom have that convoluted touch of early 90’s death metal primarily informing their songwriting. The title track is by far the best song Writhing Shadows have written and they’ve sold it to us on several of their releases thus far, its doomed and creeping eerie still holds up here on the end of ‘Writhing Shadows‘ alongside its original bride “Empire of Rot” for a huge high to end the record. As we dig through the entrails and consult the spirits on their first couple of EP releases (‘Flesh Magic of the Haruspex‘, 2020) / (‘Perverse Beasts of War‘, 2020) it becomes more apparent that this is a modern sort of easygoing USDM crew whom just happen to have some very strong Bolt Thrower-isms ingrained into their very being, focusing most intently upon the sort of easy translation between the slower, groovier pulse of ‘…For Victory‘ and nowadays brutal hardcore influence death metal trendiness. This doesn’t necessarily separate them from the dry, mass market movement of groups like Frozen Soul, yet I’d suggest Writhing Shadows aren’t relying so heavily upon watered down death metal forms propped up by eh, the post-‘Perseverance‘ metalbro generation’s notion of a riff.

There is a lot of finery and even a bit of chaotic interplay doled out beneath the grimy, low-end chunking of the guitarists on the average Writhing Shadows song, but I hadn’t felt like they’d picked the ball back up beyond their first demo ’til I’d heard their (January released) single “Valkyrie of Blood” and sorta mentally confirmed that this wasn’t going to be a casual-core gig. This turned out to be the right call as ‘Writhing Shadows’ may be a chill product of its time but yet manages to be a pretty damned solid listen without a too-demanding full listen that sits pretty well on repeat when the mood strikes. There are couple of whatever mosher pieces here but opener “Warplust Contortions” walks us through how that might end up being an alright deal if they’ve got enough riffs pre-loaded beforehand while “Void Cursed” gets a cheap thrill out quick, spaces out in the right kinda way for a shot of interest early on. From there it’d mostly been a ride towards “Devourment of God’s People” for my own taste with the exception of “Born of Dying Stars”, probably the most directly ‘Those Once Loyal‘-era Bolt Thrower influenced piece and an obvious standout due to how well they’ve managed to pull it off. It is an easy way to catch my ear as a fanatic yet also the easiest way to resemble a hundred other bands barking over simplified variations of Thompson and Ward‘s still unbreakable riffing, I’d ultimately split the difference and just enjoyed the damned song.

Alright, nit-picking out of the way the big deal here with ‘Writhing Shadows‘, as far as I’m concerned, is that if Writhing Shadows can pull these songs off live in a big way then they’ve made a convincing first assault. This stuff is entirely geared towards grinding up small clubs with human meatbags, mashing up against other smelly nerds in moderately sized crowds while this ominous, satisfyingly sinister stomp music horrifies the mind. With that said, it is a good time on record — I appreciate the cavernous, mean and filthy sound of the render as it helps keep things leaning pure death metal far more often than it does moshbro bop, and despite the lack of worthy leads throughout. Only gripe is that they really need more “Devourment of God’s People”-sized pieces to break up the drone n’ churning of the full listen. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (78/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Writhing Shadows
LABEL(S):Dawnbreed Records,
Gurgling Gore
RELEASE DATE:May 13th, 2022

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