At the rate things go in and out of fashion these days, small outcrops of tonally similar artists will always be around either too early or too late for their big moment. Not their fault. Fans will turn on bands and whole genres quicker than a Trump tweet turns into a meme. Cabal aren’t in or out of vogue, but the symphonic, snail pace beatdown sound definitely has it’s moments. The Danes drop tune their strings and slow down their chugs to an almost sadistic tempo, diving in and out of djeathcore tropes and a handful of clichés too. And that’s okay, Mark Of Rot is interesting enough to not turn off after the first of many bass drops.
Sleek, high gain guitars clank violently against a huge sounding kit for the duration of this doomy Danish debut. Another reason why Cabal aren’t deserving of the quick turn off. Natural, analog sounds are the last thing required when trying to turn Periphery into Black Tongue; sounds not found in the stuttering, crisp cut grooves of “Unworthy”. As murky as the strings get with an endless berating of chugging, the squeaks, squeals and scrapes provide an actual percussive effect. Most don’t get it right so, kudos. The production and “cleanliness” of the metal attack doesn’t sound like yet another symphonic deathcore band at least.
Nexilva did this best a few years ago. The symphonic death metal blasting and digitally reinforced riffs, that is. While the UK gang may be dormant, Cabal definitely do a job at making at least one person remember them. At a different stage of death metal than the Brits, the Copenhagen Chug Crew keep the horns, organs and strings balanced; save for the extended organ intro on “Nothingness”, a song begging for an AMV video on YouTube somewhere. There’s a handful of really neat moments throughout, pulling from a box of tricks that could and probably should be dipped into more. “Rah’Ru” flits between urgent blasts and snapping grooves, bleeding in initially from a tasteful synth intro. It’s easily the most complete song on the record. Even though it has a breakdown right at the end, like every other track.
As entertaining as Mark Of Rot gets, it suffers immensely from a reliance on the down tempo riffs. “Riff” is used pretty liberally here. After the third or fourth sub-atomic drop, the effect loses any novelty, dragging tracks capable of more into a tiresome exercise at points. Unlike the most popular bass drop band of all time, The Acacia Strain, Cabal don’t allow for much room – if any – around the brown note brodown, reducing the impact of consistent low end batterings. The instrumental breakdown track “Empty” is funnily enough the best breakdown on the record. It starts somewhere, moves places and ultimately comes crashing down. It has impact, unlike the rest of the heavy for heavy’s sake chugging.
Criticism of any band operating at tempos like this is always going to be aimed at the same areas. Cabal dodge most of it, thanks to a healthy appreciation of theatrics and generally over the top metal antics. Mark Of Rot is a strong entry into a world looking for the heaviest of the heavy, but doesn’t perk up the ears enough to make ripples elsewhere. Any one who appreciates production values and bass rich devastation will find plenty to enjoy for half an hour. Because sometimes you just need to get a bit heavy.
Mark of Rot is available 2/23 via Long Branch Records.