Words by Carly Gibbs
The metal scene can be an overwhelming beast at times and it’s easy to miss a release if you have been face-down bingeing on some other form of demonic composition. This is precisely what happened for me with Finnish death-metallers Church of the Dead and their self-titled debut album. This repugnant crypt offering skulldragged its way from the depths of hell to be released on the 31st of July and I’m not proud to say that I slept on this one, but I am quickly making up for lost time by slamming this album into my high rotation list and it is sinfully delicious. With a sound that the band describe as Disfear playing Cannibal Corpse and taking influence from extreme juggernauts Celtic Frost, Bolt Thrower and Darkthrone, you just know this is going to be brutally heavy. If this sounds like your thing then you may just want to keep reading on, fellow blackened death metal loving human.
The Opening: Rising from Beyond, conjures images of half rotted corpses emerging from their musty tombs, swaying and limping their way out with worm eaten hands outstretched. It’s a short and not so sweet introduction to the onslaught that is about to ensue. Not a second later you are pummeled by ferocious blast beats in Hounds of Men and one thing is clear, Church of the Dead are not here to fuck spiders….or whatever the equivalent saying is in Helsinki.
Now, in the order of being completely transparent, I must share with you the way in which I first listened to this album. I wasn’t in some dank room, cloaked in darkness, carving pentagrams into my leg. No, quite the contrary. I was taking a walk through one of Mother Nature’s finest creations. If you are familiar with the Sunshine Coast you will know that it is famous for its stunning beaches, lithe women with sun kissed skin and bleach blond hair and men with fantastically straight teeth, a penchant for a tight salmon pant and an “island casual” Tommy Bahama shirt to complete the ensemble. It is in stark juxtaposition to a Helsinki Winter and the absolute filth of the ‘Church of the Dead’ that was assaulting my eardrums. Whilst I was smiling and wishing a good morning to other walkers in fluro lycra and shirts emblazoned with motivational sayings like “Inspire” and “Go girl” my head was full of malevolent venom. This contrast seemed to deeply intensify both settings, the staggering beauty of the azure waters and the caustic nature of the music that was outwardly silent yet I was hungrily devouring. There is something so devilish about the secrecy of the parallel World hidden behind that public friendly smile. Like having an in joke just with myself.
But back to the album! Coffincraft has a grim black and white video that was also only just released, filled with imagery that would make any bloodthirsty horror fan squeal in delight. The track is melodic in parts but never softens the viciousness of Jussi Salminen’s vocals and the menacing tones of Kride Lahti’s guitar.
Hail the Rat King- The Bringer of Plague. A swaggering mass of unpredictability is this five minute behemoth that has the band changing tempo multiple times yet keeping the cold-blooded intensity up throughout. There is a section about 3 minutes in which is as tough as nails and makes me realize what it is that I love so much about metal. It’s a feeling of raw, barbaric power and COTD are oozing it into the airwaves and transferring it to the listener via some sort of aural osmosis.
Even though the production on this record is a lot cleaner and modern in comparison to their predecessors from the era, it still has that distinct feeling and stamp of death metal from the 80’s/90’s with the punishing low end, visceral vocals, use of melody and interesting rhythm.
The Reckoning switches it up again off the back of Rat King – The Bringer of Plague ensuring the listener is engaged and involved in every last second of this debut. It’s like an undulating wave that flows across the album intent on gaining your attention and holding it steadfast throughout. There is more than enough going on here to do so. COTD slam their foot onto the accelerator once again and deliver the ferocious Something Came out from the Woods.
Nekrovulture is fast paced and aggressive and has a chorus that is conducive to a bit of a crowd scream along. The d-beat nature of this track, à la Discharge hammered into Malevolent Creation, is chuggy and fun, if you can get away with calling a track this thunderous “fun”.
The Abyss is the final sermon in this, the ‘Church of the Dead’. A deep or seemingly bottomless chasm of human depravity, violence and horror. It is one of the darkest tracks with doom infused riffs and tempo and is punctured by the sound of tortured souls demonically echoing through the darkness.
‘Church of the Dead’ is a brilliant example of how great a debut album can be when the band know who and what they are about. COTD certainly have their sound figured out and have only just knocked the top off the hive with this cohesive and polished record. It’s out now and very much worth a listen.
Jussi Salminen – Vocals
Kride Lahti – Guitar
Antti Poutanen – Bass
Tommi Makkonen – Drums
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With thanks to Black Roos Entertainment