In 2020, New York’s Undeath positioned themselves at the forefront of the OSDM movement with their debut full length Lesions of a Different Kind. The record turned heads with its top-level songwriting for the genre, and was likely THE death metal record to beat in the broader musical spotlight that year, given the positive accolades received outside of the online metal community with glowing reviews from Pitchfork and The Needle Drop, to name a few. A big change-up from the previous year’s Hidden History of the Human Race from Colorado psychonauts Blood Incantation. Fitting, as both bands perhaps offer two sides of the coin as far as the US death metal scene is at in recent years; where Blood Incantation fiddles with psychedelics and 30 minute technical prog opuses about ancient aliens with the odd foray into dungeon synth (unironically incredibly valuable, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise), Undeath are very much a back-to-basics kind of band from the school of 90’s classics by Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation, and Morbid Angel, with intentions not of changing the face of the genre, but to celebrate it as it is (and once was).
There’s a certain level of purity to Undeath that is admirable. No, they don’t quite revel in the excesses and ignorance that the depths of the genre can revel in, nor do they waste time with flashy guitar tech, although the influences are there in both camps. By looking at the discourse surrounding the whole Chris Barnes debacle, the dudes of Undeath don’t seem to take themselves too seriously, and are very much about the genre’s inherent goofiness. There is a simplicity to the band’s sound in their emphasis on songwriting and powerful riffing, and one would be hard pressed to find a band as catchy as Undeath in the OSDM sphere. As was the case with Lesions, their hotly anticipated follow-up It’s Time… To Rise From The Grave is a masterclass in death metal, and a clear love-letter to the genre’s history.
Unsurprisingly, the record is wall-to-wall bangers with riffs and grooves that stay lodged in the skull. There isn’t a single track within that doesn’t offer a moment or two of engagement. Immediately, the record reels in listeners with an Alex Webster-like bass lick on “Fiend for Corpses” before the pulverizing track bursts into motion. “Necrobionics” is an absolute rager when it gets going and is an example of how a versatile drum performance can make or break a death metal record. “Enhancing the Dead”, a reworked track from their 2019 EP Sentient Autolysis, is an easy highlight, and somehow even livelier than the original, offering a rare positive example in the utility of bands re-recording their past work.
Given the success of Lesions, it would be easy for the band to drop another ten tracks of death metal in the same vein and call it a day. It’s Time… feels more substantive than a rehash of the ideas explored on the debut, and has its own personality and a furtherance of the band’s repertoire that one would hope for out of a sophomore record. Of particular note is the (almost) title track and its broader range of influences pulling in NWOBHM guitar acrobatics and galloping riffs, like Iron Maiden gone death metal, if only for a moment. It’s a welcomed detour that isn’t wholly uncharacteristic, but does reflect on a willingness on behalf of the band to be flashy. “Bone Wrought”, the shortest song on the record at 2:30, is another example of the band’s versatility in dynamic, getting remarkably close to grindcore in its intensity.
In the world of death metal writing, you’re going to see a lot of colorful adjectives to describe this kind of music, like bludgeoning, fetid, and gruesome, with turns-of-phrase that liken the musical violence to detailed and graphic acts, but we rarely talk about how fun and catchy this music can be. Sure, Undeath are absolutely worthy (and likely appreciative) of all of those colorful adjectives and more, but It’s Time… To Rise From The Grave is at its core a highly entertaining and deeply satisfying distillation of death metal, and a phenomenal representation of what makes the genre so great. You know what you’re getting into with song titles like “Head Splattered in Seven Ways,” and Undeath goes above and beyond in their delivery.
Undeath’s It’s Time… To Rise From The Grave dropped April 22nd, 2022 on Prosthetic Records and can be purchased via Bandcamp.