Embrace the Lovecraftian horror.
The cemetery grass may be greener on the other side of the death metal hill, but rarely is it the case that a group of musicians credited with helping create one distinct movement within said metal subgenre to venture effectively into the territory of another. Then again, stylistic boundaries haven’t been much of an issue for At The Gates front man Tomas Lindberg given his association with the more grindcore-tinged Lock Up alongside Shane Embury of Napalm Death fame, as well as his involvement with the recently reformed Israeli death/doom outfit Sign Of Cain. But there is a particularly fascinating eventuality to consider in Lindberg, along with fellow At The Gates members Adrian Erlandsson and Jonas Stalhammar venturing into the old school Stockholm sound, culminating in a dark, dank and decrepit expression of Lovecraftian horror set to death metal that is The Lurking Fear.
Drawing from the dissonant and dreary world occupied by Swedish death metal early entries Entombed, Dismember and Grave, this is a fold that is unapologetically retro in its approach, yet highly effective in communicating its message of cosmic fear to a present day audience. The signature blend of raw coldness and archaic brutality straddles the line between the trappings of the early 1990s and the larger, denser production practices that have typified much of the old school death metal sound in its 2010s revivalist context. Alongside the mid-ranged grunts and growls of Lindberg, the musicianship displayed by the rest of the fold is underscored by a sense of creepiness and deep, atmospheric dimensions that transforms a simple blend of bludgeoning riffs, murky bass lines and raucous drum work into a tapestry of sound so vivid that it could transport the mind of any listener to the sunken city of R’lyeh.
In similar fashion to this fold’s 2017 debut outing “Out Of The Voiceless Grave”, 2021’s “Death, Madness, Horror, Decay” presents a dense, yet mostly impact-based collection of thrashing anthems out of the abyssal plain. Though the titles are equally as cryptically worded as their source material, the template at work behind the words is of a simple character, drawing heavily from noted early Stockholm classics such as “Like An Everflowing Stream,” “Left Hand Path” and “Into The Grave.” Likewise, while the duration of each musical chapter is on the short side and a melancholy melodic overhang stands in the stead of any overt technical noodling, the songwriting on display is both impressive and compelling. Just about the only thing that could really be counted as a flaw in the manner that this album unfolds is that with a few notably longer exceptions, these songs are concise and streamlined to a slight fault.
From beginning to end, this opus is an exercise in unfailing consistency, with each chapter leaning deep into the maddening realm of the infinite. Generally the most involved and ensnaring anthems also happen to be the longest and most complex, with the blinding speed and marshy contours of “Death, Madness, Horror, Decay” and the crawling, organ-steeped creep of “Leech Of The Aeons” being the obvious highlights. But even when the death thrashing assault takes on a more uniform character and lays on the chaotic riff work and thunderous deluge of drum hits as on “In A Thousand Horrors Crowned” and shorter bursts of abstract aggression like “Ageless Evil” and “Cosmic Macabre”, the general ebb and flow of this album stands uninterrupted, like the ravings of a mad soothsayer in the cult of Cthulhu being organized into a series of structured sermons to the throngs of chanting followers.
This is an offering that plants its flag thoroughly in the old school death metal revivalist camp, but when peeling back the decrepit exterior a bit, there is a noticeable melodic death metal element imported from part of this fold’s Gothenburg background that sets it apart from other more precise recreations of the old Stockholm sound. As such, it is sure to carry equal appeal to fans of At The Gates and Dark Tranquillity, and specifically the earliest incarnations of said bands when the old school sound imported from the Florida scene was still along for the ride. For those who might doubt this album’s commitment to the old school sound, the special edition contains two wicked renditions of classic anthems by early death/thrash innovators Possessed and Slaughter, perfectly illustrating where the original material found on here owes much of its inspiration. It’s an incremental yet overall noticeable improvement upon its 2017 predecessor, carrying an additional ton of aggression and a fair measure of further elaboration.
Released By: Century Media Records
Release Date: November 19th, 2021
Genre: Death Metal
- Andreas Axelsson / Bass
- Adrian Erlandsson / Drums
- Fredrik Wallenberg / Guitars
- Jonas Stålhammar / Guitars
- Tomas Lindberg / Vocals
“Death, Madness, Horror, Decay” track-listing:
2. Death Reborn
3. Cosmic Macabre
4. Funeral Abyss
5. Death, Madness, Horror, Decay
6. Architects of Madness
7. In a Thousand Horrors Crowned
8. Kaleidoscopic Mutations
9. Ageless Evil
10. One in Flesh
11. Restless Death
12. Leech of the Aeons
Straight on the heels of an impressive showing during the summer with The Nightmare Of Being, three-fifths of Gothenburg melodeath pioneer outfit At The Gates reprise a nascent side-project by delivering a morbid sonic journey into the bizarre world of Lovecraftian horror with an eye to the more primeval Stockholm sound