At home in the miserable squalor of their dig-it-yourself trenches, New Jersey-based death metal band Blasphematory make purely ugly, unfeeling death metal in portrayal of a bluntly nihilistic reality in motion, a morbid yet hardly fascinated mindset far from a point of wonder as they step up a second time and grind it out. ‘The Lower Catacombs‘ is resignation unto death embodied, the solemn succumb of the individual in truth, an untrodden place of burial mound and ancient stone tucked away from the colorful mayhem of the living. Through growling low riffs and relatively simple dissolving grooves the trio’s brutally-set action and minimally applied production values amount to a cold, brilliantly destructive whittling away at life itself.
No mosh, no core, no trends, no asinine ‘fun’ to be had… Blasphematory formed in 2018 with the intent of further developing the two original members’ stylized ideation of death metal music and needless to say each of them already had a pretty solid sheet of acts in tow between drummer Chris Demydenko (Abazagorath, Disma, ex-Warhead) and vocalist, guitarist, bassist Joe Aversario (Altar of Gore, Siege Column, Death Fortress) eventually adding second guitarist and frequent collaborator T. Deceiver on guitars in 2021. Their sound shares long-developed traits of the folks involved but if we’d have to ballpark their sound alongside some of the greats I’d suggest their mild use of guitar/vocal effects and Finnish death metal constructs for movement will appeal to fans of Desecresy, beyond that the menacing death-doomed affect of ‘Chronicles of the Shadowed Ones‘-era Morpheus Descends and the more brutal side of Gorement (alternately, Deathevokation) are good enough indicators of mood and style. The assumption being that there is some natural doomed immersion available herein which stems from specific taste and experience with death metal over the years but, it could be summed as classist underground death metal well-focused on steady brutality and ancient, murderous atmosphere.
The band’s first demo tape (‘Depths of the Obscurity‘, 2019) and its same-titled, same year debut full-length counterpart (‘Depths of the Obscurity‘, 2019) kept their approach to sound design very simple, garage-level death metal production values which are presented as if captured in a rehearsal space or via early 90’s pro-recorded death metal demo tapes, a sound that fans of nowadays groups like Mephitic Grave or Morbific will appreciate outright. Although they’ve kept things similarly homebrewed for ‘The Lower Catacombs‘ with the the low end dominating the greater heft of the mix this time around, it is for the sake of a more dynamic recording fit to land on vinyl. I wouldn’t suggest this type of sound buries the finer nuances of songs like the growling, grunting and blasting “Key to the Furnace”, if anything it adds to the suffocating nature of Blasphematory‘s delivery. Though if I had to lodge a complaint against the sound design is that it acts to level-out the register of the full listen into one massive dirge, the twists and turns aren’t lost but the whole thing is brutally directive, deliberately headed forth at all times. It is the sort of death metal record I tend to enjoy best in sparing visits as deadly groove dominates its rhythms with simple yet solid interest.
Album opener “Cruciform Shadows” isn’t in a rush for a hook or a huge riff, instead taking a moment to find their footing beyond the signature movement found on ‘Depths of the Obscurity‘ while getting the ball rolling to a steady mid-pace. The bombast of the record doesn’t come up front but develops momentum as the full listen progresses, more a matter of immersing oneself unto its downtuned wall of sound and grimiest chasmic movement rather than rattling off riff-after-riff runs to start. I’d frankly not been all that impressed upon first spin as very little seemed to happen in the space of those first four minutes, though the development of a core rhythmic outline directly accompanied by lead guitars is a simple and effective enough dynamic throughout. It wasn’t until I’d cranked the volume, found a bit of focus and sought the right angle in that it began to click. “Cruciform Shadows” along with several pieces on the full listen echoes the crawling, watery graven standard set by groups like Abhorrence and Purtenance in the late 80’s, although the level of detail found on ‘The Lower Catacombs‘ is still comparatively laid back in movement and density of riff they’ve done a fine job of making sure the lead guitars stand out quite a bit. This’d been especially notable as I began seeking out a short list of favorites on the record: “Unclean Eulogies”, “Flooded Graves” and “The Lower Catacombs” each feature their larger implied progression or melodic voicing by way of the lead guitars with most of those songs landing as a sort of Desecresy-esque trip, taking their sweet time getting to that point of guitar hook but making sure to repeat it just enough to stick in mind.
Give me a mental hellscape that takes patience and bleeding-from-the-ears cunning to appreciate and I’m all over it, having raised an eyebrow at ‘The Lower Catacombs‘ upon preview but eventually coming back around to its haunting mid-paced death knoll a surprising number of times. Beyond this being the right sort of ugly, mean-assed death metal for our devolving era of mankind, I’d inordinately found myself appreciating the drumming on this album. Not only the style of drumming but the seemingly unedited or preened-over recordings that allow for a very “live” drum sound and set of performances that feel one of a kind. That, paired with memorable lead work, would end up being what’d drawn me back in for far too many listens over the course of several weeks, ultimately finding some great value in the torturous vortex they’d achieved. A high recommendation.
|TITLE:||The Lower Catacombs|
|LABEL(S):||Nuclear Winter Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||May 13th, 2022|
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