Denver, Colorado is a beautiful city. There are dozens of gorgeous parks, plenty of great restaurants and bars, fantastic local beer and whiskey, a vibrant outdoor culture, and all situated about 45 minutes from one of the largest and most magisterial mountain ranges on earth. I’ve lived in its metropolitan area my entire life, and after having seen almost every other state in the union I have no intention of living elsewhere. It’s a fundamentally great place to call home. But you wouldn’t think that listening to the metal bands that have spawned within its increasingly sprawling confines. Primitive Man, Spectral Voice, Blood Incantation, Vermin Womb, Of Feather and Bone, Necropanther, Cephalic Carnage, In the Company of Serpents, Khemmis, Glacial Tomb, and a host of other bands have made Denver one of the premiere cities for oppressive, mercilessly heavy, sonically violent metal in the country. There’s little beauty to be found in the crushing sounds of the Colorado metal scene (purposefully acting like Dreadnought, Wayfarer, and Cobalt don’t exist for the sake of B R U T A L I T Y), and even less so when members of several of the above bands choose to combine forces. That’s what Black Curse’s utterly crushing debut Endless Wound represents, and it’s one of the best death metal records I’ve heard in some time.
Hype is a bitch, and even more so when the sum of a band’s collective parts is a veritable who’s who of modern metal royalty. In the case of Black Curse, it’s members of Spectral Voice, Blood Incantation, Khemmis, and Primitive Man banding together for an outing of sheer sonic arson. If that lineup by itself doesn’t generate gobs of interest across the metal community I don’t know what will. But as was made explicitly clear in my review of Umbra Vitae’s debut record, I’m no fan of metal supergroups (regardless of pedigree), so I approached this record with my standard amount of skepticism. I was a fool to assume that this record would be anything other than extraordinary. 10 seconds into Endless Wound, all my doubts were washed away by a sheer wall of sonic violence that I’ve heard few match this year. This is exactly what a confluence of such talents should sound like, and it’s a glorious sight to behold.
For those looking for comparisons, Teitanblood and most modern manifestations of the war metal sound offer the greatest amount of sonic similarity. Endless Wound is an uncompromisingly punishing black/death metal hybrid that offers no quarter to our unsuspecting ears throughout its sub-40 minute runtime, as anyone familiar with this brand of audio punishment can readily attest. Opener “Charnel Rift” proves a solid example of the band’s overall aesthetic, kicking off the proceedings with a rush of infernal riffs and drum blasts that sound exactly like the album’s cover artwork suggests they should. It’s an incendiary opening salvo that hits listeners with an immediate, face-melting heatwave that refuses to relent for even a second. The songwriting here is as punishing as anything these musicians have yet produced, but it can only be as effective as its performances allow. Thankfully, the band are more than amply endowed in this regard.
Perhaps the most surprising transformation from main gig to Black Curse is Zach Coleman’s drumming, which is particularly potent and exceptional here. Mixing frantic, lightning speed blasts with propulsive, ridiculously heavy passages, his stylistic transformation here feels so far removed from his work in Khemmis that it would be impossible to tell it was him without prior knowledge of his membership. Equally unique is Primitive Man’s Jonathan Campos (here manning guitar duties) moving from his standard moderated, glacial bass work to utterly frenetic riff building that cloaks the entire record in stringed flames. Each performer here brings their A game, and the record only gets better with each subsequent track. Lurching beneath these insanely transformative performances are the vocals of Eli Wendler of Spectral Voice, who howls into the reverberating void with all the haunted rage of a man possessed. Couple these with a typically dynamic bass throughline provided by Morris Kolontyrsky of Blood Incantation/SV and you have yourself a death metal template for the ages that not only pushes these musicians into unusual territory, but plays to their pre-established strengths. Which is what, in my estimation, is required to make a supergroup move beyond the sum of its parts into unique, stand-alone territory, and is exactly what Black Curse have achieved with resounding success here.
“Crowned in (Floral) Vice”, on top of being a straight-up banger, is the first track on the record to highlight the bands impressive tonal range. While never veering far from completely punishing, this track in particular highlights the band’s ability to modulate tempo like absolute masters of the form, swerving in and out of the fast lane with ease. There are vestiges of Hooded Menace and Temple of Void here, with the band’s penchant for death metal mayhem morphing at times into an utterly soul-crushing dirge. “Enraptured by Decay” offers up some grisly low-and-slow at its midway point that rivals the work of either of the above-mentioned death-doom juggernauts. But such moments of pace mediation never overstay their welcome, as the band are never far removed from an almost Serpent Column-esque level of speedy aggression. The band are at their best when they are blending these disparate elements together into a seamless whole, which is exactly what they accomplish on the album’s title track, which is one of the more pummeling examples of death metal mastery I’ve heard this year. Album finale “Finality I Behold” crystallizes all of the above elements and lays waste to brains and bodies with expert precision in the process. It’s a fitting end to an utterly uncompromising record.
There are few metal supergroups that reach success on the level of magnitude that Black Curse achieve with Endless Wound. This is an utterly pulverizing record that offers some of the most sonically violent and uncompromising sounds I’ve heard this year, and sits proudly as one of 2020’s crowning extreme metal accomplishments. Far more than the sum of its impressive parts, Endless Wound stands as a unique, fiery monolith of Denver metal that will most certainly make its way onto many year-end lists. You can most certainly expect to see it on mine. A thoroughly impressive debut.
Endless Wound is out now via Sepulchral Voice Records, and is available for purchase on Bandcamp.