I like the beats and I like the yelling: Sadistic Drive, Sepsis

The good people at La Caverna records continue their quest to unearth the best in modern underground metal and long forgotten gems of the old school from every corner of the globe.

Sadistic Drive: Street Cannibal Gluttony

Finland. As close as we’ll ever come to metal’s promised land. Boasting the highest number of metal bands per capita than any other country, any random sample of the best artists Finland has to offer will yield a crop as varied as it is bizarre. And Sadistic Drive do not buck the trend in this regard. Their demo ‘Street Cannibal Gluttony’ (2019) is four tracks of progressive death metal that behaves like grindcore.

‘Can you elaborate on that mate?’

Sure.

There’s barely ten minutes worth of music to discuss across four tracks. Compositionally we are presented with four micro tracks that are not allowed time to develop, a key calling card of grindcore. But much of the music is constructed from dissonance, literally playing major and minor chord progressions and leads in unison. This calls to mind an incredibly ugly version of Morbus Chron’s LP ‘Sweven’ (2014), which made similar use of unsettling chord shapes, but offset this with more pleasing and familiar scale runs.

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Drums are heavy on the bass, sometimes utilising the toms and crash cymbal as primary rhythm keeper over the snare drum. Each roll and fill is used to maximise the impact and drama packed within each staccato. But generally the tempo is pretty slow for death metal. It calls to mind Darkthrone’s ‘Soulside Journey’, and indeed, the vocals would be at home on a black metal album, lumbered as they are with totally inappropriate amounts of reverb.

All this results in something akin to Autopsy’s most disturbed fever dreams from the far side of the void. I would also cite Demilich as the other major influence on this music. With so much potential crammed into such a short space of time, we can only anticipate a more expanded EP or full length from these guys in the near future. Thoroughly promising weird death metal in the Lovecraftian tradition.

Sepsis: To Make Rotton

More forgotten noise from death metal’s creation myth years, Oregon’s Sepsis burned all too briefly between 1988-91. Leaving only one demo in their wake, one can only assume that they were buried beneath the saturation content that was setting in around 1990. But for old school fanatics like myself, this re-release is a treat. It’s a bit like taking a tour through the many techniques and influences on extreme metal up to and including 1991, as Sepsis showcase a whole bundle of different styles from various scenes, and somehow manage to tie it all together into a work of idiosyncratic qualities.

‘To Make Rotten’ is prima facie a standard mid-paced slab of death metal. But look beneath the surface and a chimera of disparate influences is at play, all blending into one another to create a solid, cohesive whole. The most obvious element to this music is the early Slayer influenced death metal that rose out of the swamps of Tampa, Florida. Thrash riffs diluted with heavier tritone play and yet more downtuning makes up the backbone of ‘To Make Rotten’.

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Solos are put to good use when it counts, adopting a more atmospheric approach to lead guitar work than we are accustomed to on this stripe of meat-and-two-veg death metal. I guess it calls back to Bathory or even a Venom influence. Although they are fleeting it remains impressive how seamlessly they are worked within this primitive thrashy death metal.

Which beings us screaming round to the vocals. One edge that Sepsis have here is a dual vocal attack, with Mike Brown and David Camarda delivering a highly aggressive dual vocal attack. This means that nearly all death metal vocal techniques can be heard in this mix. From the lowest guttural growl, to a hardcore punk bark, and even a hint of the inhuman gargling of Lori Bravo of Nuclear Death. This is also a masterclass in scant use of these contrasting vocal techniques delivered in unison; they are not overdone. When communing with the abyss, make every cry count.

At times the riffs go full punk, aping Napalm Death of the same era, which is a perfect antidote to the other above mentioned influences. From relatively primitive building blocks (even by the standards of 1991) these musicians never allow things to get stale, for the music to rest too long on one technique or mood. The riffs dictate the structure, and although frantic there is a logic and direction behind their placement within each track, making for a finished product with purpose and direction. The hallmark of all good death metal.

There are many more names I could drop that this reminds me of, and that’s pretty much because each new riff immediately calls to mind some completely unexpected influence. It’s honestly a wonder that these tracks sound so tight given their loose alliance of forebears. A worthy addition to the collection of any old school fanatic, ‘To Make Rotten’ is a joyful romp through the many treasure of our dark sonic past.

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