When reviewing the new Bloodbath album, I suggested that simplistic, straight-forward death metal might not be enough to stand out in a year that has seen the genre well and truly dominated by more forward-thinking, progressive acts. Now I’m thinking I merely may have given the record far too much credit; as The Serpent Insignia, the debut record from Mediterranean newcomers Coffin Birth, wholly refutes that assessment—delivering ten tracks of uncompromising, unadulterated death metal that utterly obliterates the competition.
I haven’t heard death metal that kick’s this hard since Dyscarnate stomped their way onto everyone’s radar last year with With All Their Might (2017). Chances are that The Serpent Insignia sounds exactly like whatever you imagine the “standard” death metal album sounds like in your head. Except better. Much better. There’s nothing here you haven’t heard before, yet rarely—especially in 2018—has such simple fare been executed to such a high standard. The vocals are raw and colossal, the drums pound unceasingly, the bass slams and the riffs are unstoppable. We’re talking later-Corpsegrinder-era Cannibal Corpse levels of quality and consistency here. Sure, the Entombed-esque guitar tone has been done to [ahem] death at this point, but the way Coffin Birth put it to use should remind you of exactly why it was so potent in the first place.
By comparison, the Bloodbath album simply sounds sloppy and uninspired. To portray Coffin Birth as an entirely fresh entity is somewhat disingenuous, as the band’s instrumental line-up consists entirely of current and ex-members of Italian death metal overlords and Hour of Penance andFleshgod Apocalypse. However, rather than a rotating roster of esteemed genre frontmen, they boast a relatively unknown quantity in Beheaded throat-tearer Frank Calleja, who dictates proceedings with a force and command simply lacking from Nick Holmes’s performance on The Arrow of Satan Is Drawn. Likewise, Coffin Birth push their lyrical content and subject matter right up to the line of ridiculousness, without ever crossing the line into self-parody. The band (who, I remind you, are named “Coffin Birth”) manage to deliver songs with names like “From the Dead to the Dead”, “Zombie Anarchy” and—the one to rule them all—”Christ Infection Jesus Disease”; all while keeping a (knowingly) straight face. Elsewhere, such as on the delightfully brutal “Casket Ritual” and “Red Sky Season”, the menace is wholly real, and the Mediterraneans manage to maintain such a not-so-delicate, knife-edge balance throughout the entirety of its exhilarating runtime.
Put simply, The Serpent Insignia is death metal done right and executed to a standard that far exceeds many of the genre’s more mainstream offerings in 2018. The album brims with the kind of palpable, ferocious joy that made earlier Bloodbath records like Resurrection Through Carnage (2002) and Nightmares Made Flesh (2004) so appealing, and which is lacking from their and so many others’ output in recent memory. For all its violent imagery and tendency toward self-seriousness, at its heart, death metal is meant to be fun and cathartic, and The Serpent Insignia is truly a joy to apprehend.
The Serpent Insignia comes out November 30, through Narcotica/Time to Kill Records.