It’s a very good time to be a fan of old school death metal. The past few years in particular have seen a massive resurgence of all that is gruesome and filthy in the death metal world, with Blood Incantation, Gorephilia, Ascended Dead, Dead Congregation, Tomb Mold, and a veritable host of others bringing the pain with release after release of premium death. Every year I think the honeymoon has to come to an end. That there is no way that this blistering pace of quality releases is sustainable. Time and time again I’m proven wrong, with Taphos’ debut Come Ethereal Sombreness serving as a sterling example that OSDM is alive and well in 2018.
If this is your first time reading about Taphos, I can’t blame you. Other than a few EPs and demo releases, there’s not much that’s particularly substantive in the band’s back catalog. Come Ethereal Sombreness arrives like an unheralded siege. An assault on the senses that bleeds a confidence and self-assurance that bands who’ve been around for decades are still attempting to harness. It’s violent, abrasive, menacingly heavy, and expertly performed. If you enjoy any of the above-mentioned bands, you’re going to love what Taphos have put together on their debut.
And what have they put together, exactly? In short, a relentless monster of a death metal record. Taking cues from mid-career Morbid Angel and the sonic buzz saw of Immolation, Taphos have harnessed a sound that is equally crisp and oppressively heavy. Taking exactly one minute to declare their intentions following a brief intro track, “Impending Peril” bursts forth from a deep, dark cave of death metal nastiness to lay waste to your poor, unprepared ears. This track showcases in dramatic fashion their ability to create memorable and ceaseless riffs that feel as brutish and profane as those created by their counterparts in the Copenhagen death metal scene, Phrenelith and Undergang. But the wonder of Taphos’ songwriting is its ability to take some very familiar sounds and amalgamate them in a way that feels distinct both to a scene and to themselves. This can be attributed mostly to the band’s above-stated ability to write memorable riffs that stick with you long after the album has ended. Additionally, there are a few distinct blackened elements that push and shove their way to the forefront, mainly in the rhythm section, which features some truly remarkable blasts that complement the classic death tremolo/chug dynamic quite well. “Thrive in Upheaval” is perhaps the best example of this dynamic on the record, allowing the manic drum work to undergird some sharp, pummeling guitar play. It’s a package that mixes its chosen elements with verve and skill, justifying the band’s stylistic choices at every turn.
While a relatively speedy and pummeling affair, Come Ethereal Sombreness is not without its moments of mid-tempo brutality. “Ocular Blackness” and “A Manifest of Trepidation” feel akin in many ways to the doomy lethality of Incantation, and it’s a welcome change of pace. Speaking of pace alteration, stylistic change manifests itself in the haunting acoustic instrumental “Dysfori”, which seemingly comes out of nowhere but definitely fits the general vibe of the album. It’s refreshing to hear a band take a violent stylistic left turn that not only works sonically, but adds an unexpected emotional impact to the record as a whole. Following this brief interlude, the band jump right back into their bone-crushing ways with “Insidious Gyres”, which is just about as pummeling a death metal track as you will find. The album continues to crush and destroy until its instrumental finale, which sees the return of those haunting acoustic notes with an undercurrent of tribal, devastating drum blasts. It’s a fitting end to an album jam packed with variety and good ideas.
It’s hard to imagine Taphos creating a more sonically engaging and brutalizing full-length debut than Come Ethereal Sombreness. This is a memorable and deeply enjoyable record that most any fan of death metal’s gnarlier elements will relish. Don’t let the band’s relative youth fool you: This is premium old school death metal that heralds to a promising career for these Danes. More, please. And soon.
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Come Ethereal Sombreness is out now via Blood Harvest Records, and is available for purchase in physical and digital formats on the band’s Bandcamp page.