1. Maze of Fire
2. Disturbing the Dead
3. The God Beyond
5. Deathsteps to Oblivion
Every once in a while comes an album that pushes the envelope just a wee bit, bends genres and in the process gives metal music a new dimension. 2009’s Ritual Executions by The Dead was one such album and now with their third full-length, the band has essentially perfected the sound template they helped forge five years back.
Deathsteps to Oblivion opens with Maze of Fire – a bass-heavy, mechanical, plodding, and almost-industrial sounding slab of death-sludge music – a good reminder of where the band left off with their second album. The music here is primitive, unapologetically basic and hard-hitting, an affair the band proudly maintains for the rest of the album. After a neat bass-driven interlude and a screeching guitar solo, we move on to Disturbing the Dead a tune that takes an Asphyxesque death-doom riff, slows it down a notch and attacks back with its putrid heaviness. Michael Yee is a beast – his deep, glottal vocals with all its raspiness perfectly complements the kind of mid-paced death metal music these Australians churn out. The mix of the album is perfectly suited for the kind of organic, primal sound terrain the band is going for. It isn’t cavernous for the sake of it, but the production definitely lends the music that extra edge.
The album centrepiece, God Beyond erupts with this high-octane black metal attack replete with tremolo–picked riffs, a piercing guitar tone, blast-beats and menacing black metal shrieks before plummeting to absolute silence and then breaking into the most soulful and strikingly expressive set piece. Adam Keleher’s bass-playing really shines on this album and with this song, he absolutely nails it – probably my favourite song on the album.
The album then trudges on to the out-and-out catchy death-sludge anthem that is Terminus. It has a very Ramessesy feel to it. Michael’s vocals on this one drips with syrupy filth – so dirty, so viscid and just so right for this kind of music. The album closer, Deathsteps to Oblivion feels like the musical equivalent of a coronation with its grand build-up and bow-down-before-me heaviness.
The album has an excellent flow. I did not have access to the lyrics at the time I was sent the promo, but I think the underlying narrative really came through. The songs with their motifs and general instrumentation seemed to rightly capture the mood. For instance, the marching, hammer-drill rhythm of Deathsteps to Oblivion brings to mind the slow, perturbing ascend to ‘oblivion’. The dichotomous nature of The God Beyond evokes a sense of bewildering wonderment, the kind that the principal character of the narrative might have experienced on encountering a preternatural being, followed by the quiet, melodic segment that addresses the character coming in terms with the feeling.
The Dead have returned with an excellent album with songs that are inventive and seem to have been explicitly crafted than just ‘written’. Deathsteps to Oblivion is definitely the band’s best offering till date and one of the best albums of 2014. All hail The Dead!