For a good few years now, the extreme metal scene has been straight up marinating in new school old school death, and I've generally lapped it up. This trend-that's-not-really-a-trend has proved to be something of a double-edged sword, though, because while I'm a firm believer that the world has room for an infinite number of Incantation clones, after five years of saturation, all those murky tones and cavernous atmospheres and Golgothan riffs have left things sounding a bit, well… clone-y.
That's why I've been so delighted to see a small clutch of bands start poking their heads up out of the mire, and experimenting with psychedelia (like Execration), prog (Morbus Chron), Gothic glam (Tribulation) and general weirdness (Horrendous, Lantern, Vampire, Chthe'ilist). It's a good time to be a death metal fan with a healthy sense of curiosity (or a soft spot for older weirdos like Atheist, Demilich, Cynic, and so on). Now, Finland's Ghastly have joined their head-scratching ranks with a brilliant new album, Death Velour, that feels like Trey Azagthoth and the ghost of Chuck Schuldiner hopped into a wormhole and brought along a few Oranssi Pazuzu albums and a bag of shrooms for company.
The album's gorgeous purple-and-blue cover is what first caught my eye; it looks of like Oranssi Pazuzu's Valonielu crossed with 'Altars of Madness,' bathed in cold violet light (which is a reasonably accurate depiction of their overall sound, too). It's also extremely Finnish, in that these Tampere trio (guitarist/vocalist Johnny Urnripper, guitarist/bassist/drummer/vocalist Ian J. D’Waters, and the delightfully-monikered vocalist Gassy Sam) have no problem paying their respects to their country's old gods as well as its tradition of fucking with genre conventions.
“Death Velour is a journey to the forgotten dimensions of the mind," the band told Noisey. "Evoking the spirits of the dead in a hallucinating way that either freaks you out, or takes you on a ride you don’t want to leave. It shrouds the listener into a vortex of death, and after the experience, your words will be, ‘And to think… I hesitated’.”
You heard them. Don't sleep no this one, it's already one of the most interesting things I've heard this year (and who doesn't love a good vortex of death?). Stream Death Velour below, and preorder the album (physical here, digital here) from 20 Buck Spin.
Kim Kelly is generally aghast on Twitter.