EP Review: Undergang – De syv stadier af fordærv

EP Review: Undergang - De syv stadier af fordærv
Reviewed by Sam Jones

To say that Undergang are a favourite death metal band right now would be an understatement. Following their 2009 inception, Undergang have gone from strength to strength and are noted amongst Denmark’s premier extreme metal output that has only gone on to explode in the last few years with Undergang becoming acknowledged as one of its championing icons. Formed in the Danish capital of Copenhagen, Undergang has seen some lineup changes yet the crux of the band has been led by original drummer Anders Pedersen and guitarist/lead vocalist David Buch Milkkelsen whose vocal depths have become synonymous with Undergang’s sound. Lately the band has seen Mads Haarlöv join their ranks as a fellow guitarist and their newest addition comes in the form of bassist Martin Leth Andersen in 2018. With five studio works under their belt, some of which considered Denmark’s finest death metal, the band have only become more renowned for their vile atmospherics and seductively gruesome tones. Hot on the heels of a recent Split with Spectral Voice, Undergang are poised to release an EP, De Syv Stadier Af Fordærv, via Me Saco Un Ojo Records with an early September release in mind. Given my adoration for Undergang, and my having seen them play earlier this May in London, I was ecstatic to see what this EP would bring.

Undergang’s guitar tone has always possessed a particularly dirty layer to its performance and while the same goes for this EP, I can’t help but feel like there’s additional bass or power being driven into the riffs this time round. After fifteen years of Undergang’s signature sound, it’s actually refreshing to hear something new being poured into the band’s songwriting. The riffs are deliciously repulsive, they ooze with slime and the atmosphere is thick with overhanging vines but it feels as if the band wanted their impact to punch us a little more viscerally than their last releases have enabled us to feel. While the band traditionally allow us to stew within the mood their releases establish, this EP appears to be a more standard punch to the face. Perhaps it’s due to the shorter runtime this EP possesses, or that the band have implemented numerous tracks that are quick and snappy. Whatever the reason, this is an Undergang EP with a clenched fist going into its impact.

But if there’s anything Undergang have carried over from their debut record to now, it’s the proud utilisation of the raw and unrefined approach they’ve taken towards their songwriting. The day Undergang opt for a cleaner aesthetic is the day they hang up their instruments, and judging by their performance here that’s far, far from a day sometime soon. Being able to experience the primary riffs and bass simultaneously without having to ignore the other is a thankful thing to acknowledge; you can feel the riffs coming down on you again and again all the while that infernal bass ruptures in the background. We recognise dirty productions when we hear them but Undergang are masters of this by now, understanding that filth isn’t derived solely from production but from how songwriting implements the various pieces of instrumentation, and how these varying elements are brought together whereby they don’t create a needlessly muddled cacophony. It also involves the vocals as well, bringing in these disgusting bellowings that seem to break free of the songwriting’s hold and attempt to strive forth beyond the record’s four walls. It goes to show that after fifteen years Undergang, in spite of their established form, are still capable of surprising us.

EP Review: Undergang - De syv stadier af fordærv

This EP, perhaps more so than their recent studio releases, exemplifies Undergang’s philosophy towards death metal, in regards to holding nothing back. When you usually encounter a band like this or some death/doom metal act, you traditionally know what you’re getting par for the course but Undergang, being the internationally revered band they are, opt for something bolder. More than just the typically trudging songwriting, we’ve got instances where where the pacing of tracks climbs to a rapid high and the band assail us with a fervency that you don’t hear too often from their songwriting.

In addition, you have these moments where the guitar work, and namely their soloing, reaches beyond the confines of grimy and downtuned depths and, assumes a more cerebral quality all the while the band are continuing their established style of dripping and decaying extreme metal. This combination is viscerally lethal, crafting a maelstrom of sound that’s impossible to ignore; throw in those instances of speed and you’ve got a soundscape that’s enticing to the morbid degree. If their next studio album is even a fraction like this EP, fans should be foaming at their mouths.

In conclusion, Undergang’s latest EP, translated roughly to The Seven Stages Of Corruption, is an utter blast from start to finish as the band deliver not only everything you’d expect from the band, but also much more. I appreciate how the band didn’t wait until another studio release to try implementing these ideas into their songwriting; they did it on an EP that just scrapes past the twenty minute mark, which only makes us more excited for when that next album comes round. It manages to feel both tried and true to what Undergang are all about, and yet I felt like there was something genuinely fresh to be discovered throughout my time with this EP. In a way it worked out for the best as audiences can return to this EP knowing it isn’t just a retread of established Undergang soundscapes and ideas; after all these years Undergang are still striving forward and looking to see how else they can shake up what would otherwise be a stale and formulaic pattern by less thoughtful bands. There’s a reason why Undergang are continuing to turn heads as they now begin the approach to twenty years as a band; that reason being they don’t take their sound, nor their audiences, for granted.

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