In the words of the last great American poet Randy Savage “space is the place.”
This is a sentiment that has certainly caught on in metal in the last year or so. 2016 saw a number of releases dealing with the inky vacuum of space, from Aureole’s frigid black metal concept album Aurora Borealis to the interdimensional weirdness of Blood Incantation’s Starspawn. Metal has seen fit to embrace the themes and inherent weirdness of the final frontier. Though they don’t reside in the center of this swirling solar storm of metal, Gorephilia’s latest shows that they’re at least drifting on the outer fringes.
The cover art shows as much, with a ghastly being being torn asunder by a lightning strike in the depths of an unknown galaxy (hat tip to artist Raul Serrano for the striking cover art). Space manifests itself more in the themes of the album than the instrumentation itself though. While the cover and some song titles lean Voivod, the music itself is far more Morbid Angel or Immolation than the NASA bits would lead you to believe. They may leave some looking for the next twisted death metal group a tad disappointed, but Severed Monolith is still a necessary journey for fans of all things death.
Tracks like “Black Horns” and “The Ravenous Storm” offer some fantastically meaty stop/start riffs and reverb drenched leads that scream to be heard at maximum volume. “Return to Dark Space” leans heavily on unusual riff structures and becomes one of the standout tracks for it. A verse riff will jump from a steady tremolo to swift, complex chord structures before everything comes to a halt for some pinch harmonics that hit with the force of an elbow drop.
Those tracks are great and “Return to Dark Space” is certainly a standout, but it’s the grand finale that will really open your eyes to what Gorephilia can do. Though it comes in at a hefty 9 minutes and 45 seconds it isn’t exactly a free-form jazz odyssey. It starts with a mid paced tremolo that is a pitch perfect Morbid Angel riff that they must have forfeited when they decided they wanted to be Radikult. Whatever the circumstances, it serves these Finnish riffsters perfectly. The Morbid vibes continue into the halfway point of the track before a sudden stop. After what I can only assume is the sound of a vuvuzela in space, the band kicks things into high gear. A militaristic snare roll accompanies a rolling guitar riff before relaxing into a death doom crawl that slowly evolves into an off kilter harmony. If the first half is complacent in its homage, the second half can’t assault you with variety fast enough to escape it.
In 2016 death metal was a force to be reckoned with. Seemingly every month had a handful of stellar releases, and it was borderline impossible to keep up with every release. 2017 looks like it will keep that momentum up, and Gorephilia’s Severed Monolith, with a mix of familiar riffs and strange song structures, is an early entry in the list of “damn fine death metal.” It may not take you to a different galaxy, but it’ll launch you out of the atmosphere.