Brutal death metal is a 50/50 proposition for me most of the time. There are several bands in death metal’s nastiest of branches (Wormed, Devourment, Disentomb, Aborted, and Defeated Sanity, for example) that push the boundaries of what the most authoritative sounds in death metal can and should be. However, if I’m being especially pointed, the majority of the subgenre is directionless, uninteresting riff-salad that I find neither entertaining nor fulfilling.
Thankfully, bands like the above pull the entire group up a notch in overall quality, and few more so than Londoners Unfathomable Ruination. Since the release of their first full-length in 2012, it would be particularly challenging to determine what band in the brutal death metal world has touched their level of songwriting prowess, technical wizardry, and sheer aggression. Their 2016 release Finitude remains one of my favorite death metal records of the past several years, which leaves their latest offering Enraged & Unbound with a tall ladder to climb in terms of matching its predecessor’s quality. Thankfully, I can relay to you that the band’s third full-length more than meets the lofty expectations heaped upon it by being one of the most thoroughly entertaining and diverse brutal death metal records to see the light of day since, well, their last release.
Fans of the band’s previous work will find very little to complain about in Enraged. The band’s signature songwriting style (technical/brutal death with just a hint of progressive metal thrown into the mix) is back in force, balancing the most aggressive and varied tendencies of death metal into a limitlessly interesting stew of sonic mayhem. Opener “An Obsidian Perception” leaves no room for doubt that that band have lost any of their prodigious skill. Daniel Herrera and Rosario Piazza’s guitar work is bursting at the seams throughout, while drummer Doug Anderson laying down some of the most vicious beats of the band’s career. But in all the chaos, the most noteworthy component is the track’s memorability. The riffs here are earworms that easily get stuck in your head, and after several listens I find them bouncing around in my head long after the record has finished. It’s a delicious opening statement, letting listeners know that Unfathomable Ruination have lost none of their legendary edge.
As for the quality of the remainder of the record, “An Obsidian Perception” is just the tip of the iceberg. The album’s title track is a short burst of technical riffing that belongs up there with the best of them, vacillating between uncompromising brutality and an almost thrashy sensibility at the drop of a hat without ever feeling uncomfortable or jarring. “Codebreaker” is simply pure filth, showering listeners in a sea of blood-soaked riffs that are complemented by the fantastically vile vocal gyrations of gurgle master Ben Wright.
But the magic of Enraged lies in the moments where it traverses outside its self-imposed subgenre confines. While definitely firmly entrenched in the brutal side of death metal as a whole, the band revel in technicality on tracks like “Defy the Architect” (which features an excellent guest turn by Julien Truchan of Benighted). “A Prophetic Compulsion”, in contrast, highlights the band’s subtle progressive songwriting elements, slowing the proceedings down a bit to bask in the glow of some incredibly diverse guitar work. Sven de Caluwé of Aborted lends support on “Occulta Violentium”, one of the album’s most scintillating tracks, adding some further outside flavor to the band’s established sound. When considering the mix of traditional brutality and increased technicality/progressive elements, it’s clear to me that Enraged is the band’s most fundamentally impressive work to date.
From start to finish, I can’t think of a single moment where the songs on Enraged & Unbound aren’t superbly written, excellently performed, and attention-grabbing as all hell. It’s about as perfect a follow-up as I could have hoped for. It’s a difficult thing for a band to match their best work, but Unfathomable Ruination have done so, and it’s a sight to behold. Enraged & Unbound further establishes the band’s reputation as one of the premier firebrands in brutal death metal, and their latest will most assuredly be landing on many year-end lists. Mine included.
Enraged & Unbound drops Nov. 22 via Willowtip Records.