Album Review: Carnation – Where Death Lies.
Reviewed by Paul Hutchings
Their first EP ‘Cemetery of the Insane’ caused minor ripples in the death metal pond. Their debut full length record ‘Chapel of Abhorrence’ started to generate small waves. The arrival of the second-long player by Belgian death metallers ‘Carnation’ takes a massive stride forward. It’s a metaphorical Tsunami, destroying all and leaving none in its monstrous wake.
Whereas their debut stuck close to the death metal blueprint, ‘Where Death Lies’ veers away in many respects, whilst maintaining a nod to the old school. Be assured, ‘Where Death Lies’ contains 40 minutes of brutality, palm muting, tremolo picking and explosive drumming. It’s as compact and intense a death metal album as you could want and it is evident that the five-piece have benefitted from tours in recent years with luminaries such as Pestilence, Pungent Stench and Deserted Fear along with numerous festival appearances.
Unlike the slower, atmospheric intro of ‘The Whisperer’ on ‘Chapel of Abhorrence’, here Carnation get straight to work at breakneck speed with opener ‘Iron Discipline’, a track that carves a huge gash in the landscape. The sound is impressive, as one would expect with the legendary Jens Borgen at the production helm and he has done a fine job, retaining sufficient old school sound but noticeably pushing the detailed guitar work of founder member Jonathan Verstrepen and Bert Vervoort clean through the mix. Their soaring solos echo and shriek, without ever becoming too prominent. It’s a balance that is hard to achieve but here it happens in fine style.
Carnation don’t disguise their influences but blend the likes of Entombed, Obituary and Cannibal Corpse with enough of their own style to provide their own identity. ‘Spirit Excision’ for example, contains balled up fury, aggressively fast passages and slower, skull crushing segments which interlock neatly. Chainsaw guitars link to form an impenetrable barrier, the occasional soaring solo emerging from the barrage of face melting riffing. Vocalist Simon Dunson’s guttural roars are those of an apex predator, with sufficient clarity to distinguish the lyrics.
Whilst eight tracks provide a pummelling which requires oxygen and wipe downs, the coupe de grace on ‘Where Death Lies’ is the concluding track, ‘In Chasms Abysmal’. A brooding, doom laced monster, it weighs in at just shy of eight minutes. Combining fast breakdowns which are reminiscent of Slayer with much heavier, slower sections, it’s a perfect foil to the rage that preceded it. Thunderous double bass kicking links in with dark demonic bass lines, thanks to drummer Vincent Verstrepen and bassist Yarne Heylen. ‘In Chasms Abysmal’ smoulders, threatening to ignite on a regular basis but refraining from that all-out explosive conclusion. At the five-minute mark things change, Carnation briefly slip into clean vocals and duel guitar work before climaxing with an atmospheric and intense finish.
In a year of massive death metal releases, Carnation stand shoulder to shoulder with the best.
‘Where Death Lies’ is released on 18th September on Season of Mist.