Some things just get better with age. Wine, whiskey, cheese, and my dad’s jokes all receive a qualitative helping hand by good ol’ father time’s unending march toward oblivion. Yes, it’s a tired maxim, but like the best of them it’s based in a fairly hefty dose of truth. At least in some contexts. In the case of music, I would often claim the opposite to be true. I’ve found that, all too often, the further albums and bands travel from their origin, the less appealing their music becomes. While this is by no means a universal truth, there’s plenty of precedent in the music world for once splendid albums and bands losing much of their luster with the passage of time. Technologies develop, songwriting tropes change, and culture evolves, often leaving once-loved music relegated to the dollar dustbins of many a record store.
But music has a few notable exceptions to the above rule. If the last decade is any indication, death metal is one of the few genres in music that has remained largely immune to the negative effects of time, churning out albums that build upon and perfect the sounds laid down decades ago by the genre’s forebears. Italy’s fantastic Electrocution is one of those foundational bands. Their 1993 debut Inside the Unreal is rightly considered by many to be an underrated early death metal classic, and given the band’s instrumental abilities and penchant for mixing premium death metal songwriting with ferocious thrash-based speed, it would have been easy to envision them becoming a mighty force in the world of death metal. Sadly, it would be over two decades before the band released their sophomore record Metaphysincarnation, which showcased a more technical approach to the old school death metal they assisted in popularizing. 2019 brings us Psychonolatry, the band’s third record, building on the foundation laid by their previous record by bludgeoning listeners with a technical onslaught that’s as impressive as it is listenable. Those anxious to see whether the band could replicate the success of their first two records can rest at ease. Psychonolatry is as punishing as can be.
As mentioned above, while the band’s earliest recordings incorporated a great deal of thrash influence into their songs, the band’s recent evolution has facilitated a more aggressive allegiance to technicality. That isn’t to say that the band is exclusively interested in frills-only guitar-based wankery. There’s plenty of delicious meat on this record’s bones. For the uninitiated, think a mix of Morbid Angel and Malevolent Creation with dashes of Cryptopsy and Hate Eternal. It’s a sound that deftly mixes the core of old school death metal with a technical edge that proves both historically recognizable and invigorating. Psychonolatry ups the ante on nearly every performative front from its predecessor, featuring blazing solos and heavy-as-hell chugs that foment in a record that feels alive and ready to punish.
The album’s opening and title track kicks off the proceedings with a bang. Alessio Terzi and Neil Grotti’s guitar work rockets forward in a manic blaze of riffs that’s as ferocious as it gets. Mick Montaguti’s vocals are as ugly and visceral as ever, enveloping the impressive instrumental display in a thoroughly repulsive smog of death metal growls. The album’s second track “Hallucinatory Breed” doesn’t let up in the slightest, featuring some crushing drum and bass work by Vellacifer and Matteo Grazzini respectively. The remainder of the album continues to pummel and punish in similar fashion, leaving this template seldomly as the record continues.
If I had to lodge a complaint regarding this record, it would be with the album’s overall lack of variety. While expertly performed and well-written, the songs on this record sometimes bleed together in a way that, unfortunately, makes a few cuts here less memorable than others. Perhaps a slight trimming would have given the album a bit more spark, but overall this is a minor complaint. When the music is this good, a little repetition is far less concerning than it would be otherwise.
Overall, Psychonolatry successfully continues along the more technical trajectory the band established in their previous record, and serves as a fine reminder that the oldies can be just as potent when reinvigorated for the modern day. Death metal’s titanic early acts are as fully capable of relevance in 2019 as they were back in the genre’s genesis, and Electrocution’s resurgence is a testament to that fact. Far from fading into obscurity, Psychonolatry is further proof that some things really do improve with age.
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Psychonolatry drops February 8th via Goregorecords, and is available for pre-order on the band’s Bandcamp page.