Death metal. There are few art forms that so explicitly define their existence and thematic purpose. Even the names of the subgenre’s progenitors reek of death and the methods in which it is exacted: Autopsy, Death, Cannibal Corpse, Bolt Thrower, Carcass, the list goes on. It’s a style of music fully encapsulated by its name, which could be fairly construed as a bit too on-the-nose. Perhaps it is. After all, death metal’s sonic foundation has refused to stagnate, instead leaping boldly into new musical territory over the past decade and change by incorporating and developing progressive and technical elements initially concocted by bands like Atheist and Cynic into entirely new subgenres, expanding the death metal tree into a diverse and robust one. But none of these diversions of style distract Denver’s Of Feather and Bone. They’re here to accomplish one mission: Total death metal annihilation. With their sophomore record, Bestial Hymns of Perversion, the band look back to the core tenets of death metal for inspiration, creating an album that is singularly focused and maniacally aggressive. It’s death metal of the filthiest, rankest, darkest variety. It’s awesome.
Judging by the opening seconds of the record, as well as Stefan Todorovic’s ghastly cover art, it would be safe to assume that Of Feather and Bone had been cracking skulls in the death metal world from their inception. This would be a false assumption. From their crusty beginnings as a hardcore band, Of Feather and Bone’s sound developed rapidly into a nuclear blast of premium grade death metal with the murk of Incantation and the violence of Bolt Thrower mashed into a steaming pile of fetid flesh and charred bone. Bless them for it. Bestial Hymns is filled to the brim with audio violence, marking new sonic territory for the band with force and confidence. The band wastes no time displaying their death metal chops, as “Repulsive Obscurity” kicks off the album with feedback-drenched intensity. The sound of flies swarming adds a rotten, utterly perfect touch to an album infatuated with the most disgusting sounds of the underground. Dave Grant’s blistering guitar and Alvino Salcedo’s thundering bass kick into high gear within seconds of the track’s putrid introduction, pummeling and racing through the mix as Preston Weippert’s fantastic drumming establishes a breakneck pace. There is little in the way of nuance or subtlety here. This is nasty, guttural, focused death metal filled with purpose and conviction. What you hear in this track is what you get throughout Bestial Hymns. Thankfully, that’s a very good thing. This track slays, as does the rest of the record.
“Resounding from the Depths” offers up another immediate and bloody sonic sacrifice to the death metal gods, though this time incorporating some mid-tempo sections that helm close to Asphyx territory. Throughout Bestial Hymns, Of Feather and Bone display an excellent balance of tempo, allowing each song to glide naturally between mid-tempo plodding and speed-infused scorching. Following the more measured “Depths”, the pace kicks back into high gear with “Lust for Torment”, which indulges in just the right amount of Bolt Thrower worship. While all of these reference points play a significant role in the band’s overall sound, Bestial Hymns is far from a carbon copy of the greats. Of Feather and Bone carve out some unique territory for themselves in part through an absolutely vicious dual vocal attack in which Salcedo and Grant swap guttural growls and wretched screams that are both shockingly intense and add further gravity to the firestorm that the music provides. These elements and influences blend seamlessly together during album centerpiece “Mockery of the Ascension”, which displays each member of the band’s full talents with near-perfect accuracy. Steve Goldberg and Dan Lowndes deserve special commendation in this regard, as the production and mix on this record is exactly what this type of death metal should sound like. It’s murky, razor sharp, and oppressively loud, lending the music a thoroughly punishing sonic texture. It’s a complete package of overwhelming brutality, with “Pious Abnormality” serving as perhaps the best example of this production style’s potential to excite and overwhelm. From its blazing start through its ferocious finish, this record destroys.
Death metal has moved in many different directions since its heyday in the early 90s. But regardless of what new and various sonic directions it runs headlong into, at its core it remains a subgenre obsessed with brutality. Of Feather and Bone tap into that spirit in significant and effective ways with Bestial Hymns of Perversion, creating one of the most focused, invigorating, and punishing death metal releases of the year. Of Feather and Bone have no intention of breaking the death metal mold, and with this much talent they don’t need to. They exemplify everything that works about the darkest and meanest side of death metal, and it’s a glorious thing to behold. An outstanding sophomore album from a band that deserves continued respect and recognition. Bravo.
Bestial Hymns of Perversion unleashes fresh hell on March 23rd via Profound Lore Records, and is available for pre-order on the band’s Bandcamp page.