The year was 1993; a time when Sunlight Studios, Tomas Skogsberg, and Boss HM-2 pedals were household names and not coveted ‘holy grails’ for trendy, hipster, ‘brutal’ wannabes. With the progression of technology, wide accessibility of Pro-tools and online marketing, besides being born with an innate ability for musical mimicry, few bands have anything new to offer in a heavy music scene bloated and overflowing with unoriginality. Thank god (or Satan) for the trailblazing godfathers of (Swedish) death metal, because it gives us all something real to fall back on during these hard, hard times. Classic albums like the groundbreaking ‘Left Hand Path’ (Entombed, 1990) and Dismember’s ‘Like An Everflowing Stream’ (1991) defined an era where chaos, groove, and buzz saw guitars were like mother’s milk, and with heavyweights Grave, Unleashed, and Edge Of Sanity rounding out the roster, Sweden would herald this 5 band monstrosity as the hypothetical ‘unholy pentad.’ But the history books are largely incomplete, ladies and gentlemen, as God Macabre‘s ‘The Winterlong’ (1993) clearly deserved its due; luckily (and not unexpectedly), Relapse Records knows where the bones (and gems) are buried and brings us this remastered classic (with a few extra tidbits) in all its gut slashing, face melting glory.
Press ‘play’ on this rocker and ‘Into Nowhere’ immediately goes for the jugular; an opening guttural growl, down tuned, atonal riffage and a slow tempo groove launch the time capsule to a place where tight black jeans, high tops, forearm length spiked bracelets and oversized inverted cross necklaces were prerequisites. But the definitive ‘hate campaign’ officially begins about a minute in as the track cuts into a full on hardcore assault; classic tracks like ‘Revel In Flesh’ (Entombed) come to mind; the band thrives on (tempo) change, never stale or static, easily shifting gears from doom to the fast paced tremolo pick. Of course these are all characteristics of tried and true Swedish death metal, yes, but God Macabre excel with a technical proficiency that arguably outdoes any of the period specific hard hitters (with the exception of the classic Hellid-Cederlund-Andersson Entombed line up…let’s face it, has anything even come close to ‘Clandestine’ in the past 23 years?)
21st century polish does tracks like the blistering ‘Lost’ real justice; a crispness highlights its precision kick-start-stop opening and galloping double bass rhythms, and just when you think you’ve got your bearings, they twist the angle just a bit more; for sure, God Macabre‘s compositions are dynamic, unpredictable, and loaded with riff breaks and tangents, with the kind of ‘progressive flare‘ that made tracks like Dismember’s ‘Sorrowfilled’ downright infectious. The band tweaks some tritone harmonizing as they tear into the opening dirge of ‘Ashes Of Mourning Life’; the track is frankly cool as shit with its blues/death n’ roll break at the 2:10 mark. The band even sprinkles a little wah-soaked lead work to accentuate the groove before a frenzied finish of shredding and percussive battery. The song is killer, period.
Everywhere you look there’s bountiful loot, even an acoustic folk interlude (‘Lamentation’) for those who need a breather amidst the chainsaw buzz and havoc. Album (proper) closer ‘In Grief’ wields a lethal tremolo attack and breaks it up with some nice doomy segues. Of the four bonus tracks included, ‘Life’s Verge’ is the only one that’s truly essential, being the first new track in over 20 years. From the first few seconds, one thing is clear: the group is razor sharp, no rust, no cobwebs, and no half assin’. There’s a hunger and ferocity to the execution as if it’s 1993 all over again. It’s another lightning speed crusher sure to please any die-hard fan of the genre.
It seems that God Macabre has rekindled the flame at just the right time, when the declining relevancy of once great bands like Entombed and Dismember (now defunct) is at its proverbial ‘peak’. If their new material is any indication of what’s in store, young ins like Black Breath better stop and brace up…granddaddy’s back and it’s time for an ass whoopin. Highly Recommended.
Scribed by: Jeremy Moore