DE PROFUNDIS – The Corruption of Virtue (2022)REVIEW

London based death metal band De Profundis haven’t fallen into a prog-death mold beyond their doomed and devastated beginnings nearly two decades back so much as they’ve found their own aggressive and stately melodic form of it through their travels. Now thinking and feeling a bit more out loud, willing to lean into their broadest strokes and various indulgences in service to a most engaging and impressive standard, the quintet produce a sixth full-length which lands as a new peak in progress made towards their own profound voice in action. ‘The Corruption of Virtue‘ overwhelms with a purpose, a passionately stated opposition which reeks of both intellectual and emotional centers being engaged, the aggressive and the complex meeting in service to grand gestures of melodic value, all of it set to satiate the extremist with exclusivity.

The grit of path forward finds De Profundis easing up very slightly on the somewhat ‘neoclassical’ whipping of their previous couple of records for the sake of a different shade of progressive melodic death metal on this sixth full-length record. Newly inducted bassist/chapman sticker Steve Woodcock brings tirelessly fleet fingered force in powering the progressive spring beneath the band’s step, notably changing the sonic texture and dynamic voice of the band with his presence in the fold. Though the guitarists focus on a sort of thrice generational modified Alf Svensson-esque riff style when they are at their most intense, their general harmonization typically challenges the shapes largely exclusive to early At The Gates, Martyr (Canada) and perhaps a less ‘heavy metal’ sorted slinging of riff a la Death‘s ‘Symbolic‘ but these are loose notes which could’ve been used to describe any material from the band as far back as 2014… Here we’ve got something a bit different but with some strong precedence in their core ideal. I’d touched upon their long history in summation of the band’s discography up ’til and including ‘The Blinding Light of Faith‘ when I’d reviewed it back in 2018, so at this point I’d at least suggest the band’s choice to pursue more extreme pace and finessed rhythms has yielded increasingly unique results.

The Corruption of Virtue‘ gives us a chance to see those steadily built ideals under a new light, with shades of Augury, Theory in Practice, Carcariass and maybe even Atvm as stylistic placeholders I’d provide here in seeking a modern yet similar frame of reference. Still denizens of the ‘old school’ standards for prog-death, De Profundis yet earn some great admiration within this record for the sake of continually challenging themselves with complex works which feature feeling-enriched yet technically sound presentation; A presentation which is intelligent in its conductivity of detail-rich performances which lead with inquisitive gesturing, most often positing a question in thesis rather than delivering plain statement. It is yet a dogged, forceful conversation in opposition and as such will appeal to folks seeking the ultimate combinations of tasteful progressivist melodicism still concerned with death metal’s most important counter cultural application, now breaching many subjects which tie back to religion as the root of all evil among men. Still a class act to say the least, needless to say that they’ve been able to build upon the clear successes of their previous two recordings on this one.

Folks already familiar with De Profundis‘ stylistic treading should expect them to continue the thread at the very least, I’d wanted nothing less than the ranting, overflowing spill of the previous record and it seems they’ve pushed well beyond that threshold without entirely restating themselves. With that said, you’ll likely start to hear the pitfalls of pushing to the absolute limit of activity versus simply shaping as we find no breather between brilliant songs, all of which whittle and codify their acts as if on fire at all times. The only mercy they’ve granted us this time around is cutting it off at ~40 minutes and having a few songs bleed together just enough that the full listen of ‘The Corruption of Virtue‘ reads as compacted and meaningfully threaded as their riffs flow past. Up to my most honest tendencies, I’d found myself more interested in technique and voicing to start, a bit obsessed with the bass guitar tone and performances ’til the guitars insisted their parity of experience. Opener “Ritual Cannibalism” certainly goaded me along, though, with some appreciable immediacy in showcase of their increasingly turn-on-a-dime capable movement, yet the two pieces that follow it sever that density into two experiences; “Sectarian Warfare” offers a decidedly more punishing attack ’til its later-on climax and “Relentless March” acts as the floodgates breached for the melodic/progressive aggression inherent to De Profundis‘ best work eagerly revealed. Though this first third of the album makes its argument well and manages a very fine showing I’d found myself gearing up for and perking up nearby the second set of three pieces which’d defined my own listening experience. “Relentless March” is nonetheless the sort of signature piece, the goalpost achieved, and a first peak within a battlefield of memorable yet fastidiously scoped songs.

Weaponized Rape” starts a streak of finest digs, the songs which not only characterize the experience as a whole, but generate a fairly constant flood of interest for my own taste. Of course these songs tend to feature prominent bass guitar performances, giving “Embrace Dystopia” an intense station in mind as the killer app amongst a pack of ’em. Plenty of solos have wailed past, the shift to a more melodeath centered vocal style continues to work quite well for the band’s ideal, and this time around the drums are best balanced in the mix to allow De Profundis to avoid any too era specific reading up front. In terms of guitar interest “Desecrating Innocence” is a clear standout, their handle upon the riff continues to impress and I’d expected nothing less than pro to evolved between the two guitarists and their work shows not only here but within the majority of the pieces on ‘The Corruption of Virtue‘. Those three pieces alone should perk the ears of both the pre-’93 only prog-death enjoyers and fans of modern progressive death with a slight melodeath context, not exactly Psycroptic in terms of noveau technique employed but still in a similar spirit. Without belaboring the larger point, these folks are still a class act who still operate within a high “underground classics”-yet-updated standard.

The final third of the album is just as much of a feature though it’d most consistently perk the ear with the aggression of “Scapegoat”, one of the more passionately attacked songs of the lot and a pace that was needed to pick up the third act as the record bustled onward. The full listen only had a few hitches to start, a few songs bleed together in both good and bad ways, and again there isn’t much of a break offered here within the forty minutes on offer, a bit of a mid-paced end to “Embrace Dystopia” is about it. I’d found ‘The Corruption of Virtue‘ demanding yet rewarding, worthy of my time invested yet often actively engaging enough to pause my own thoughts to make room for theirs. This is ultimately a virtue as it’d tend to encourage focus and I’d eventually engage with lyrical themes, some very strong illustrative album art, and end up having warmed to the record entirely. De Profundis have made well and good on an experience on par or bettering the high marks given to their previous record. The production values and general fidelity receives a notable upgrade alongside a general uptick in their progressive-yet-aggressive presentation and virtuosic performances. If we can muse as to whether we have heard these folks at their best I believe ‘The Corruption of Virtue‘ makes a most reasonable argument that this is it. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:The Corruption of Virtue
LABEL(S):Transcending Obscurity Records
RELEASE DATE:October 7th, 2022

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