It\’s a fact of life: change happens. Sometimes it\’s good, sometimes it\’s bad, but it usually takes a little getting used to in any case…as it is with the new album from Finland\’s thrash-death purveyors Deathchain. Originally formed under the name Winterwolf in 1997, the group recorded two demos before an almost complete lineup changeover in 2001 and a name change to Deathchain. Another demo was recorded in 2002, followed by a signing with Finnish label Dynamic Arts Records and the recording and release of two albums in 2003 and 2005. Despite the fact these albums were a little difficult to take completely seriously because of the rather odd titles of DEADMEAT DISCIPLES and DEATHRASH ASSAULT, there was no question the music was an excellently brutal blend of furious thrashy riffing, inhuman drumming, and vicious vocal assaults. 2006 saw a split in the band with the departure of vocalist Rotten and the incoming replacement of K.J. Khaos (a.k.a. Kai Jaakkola, vocalist for Deathbound, The Duskfall, and MonsterSpank and formerly vocalist for Necronomicon), and in early 2007, the group recorded their third album, CULT OF DEATH – an album which sees more changes than just the vocal department.
Probably the first and most obvious change is the guitar tone. \”That\’s not Deathchain!\” was the first thing I muttered when I heard it. The first two albums featured a much more bass-heavy downtuned percussive sound to the rhythm guitars than the cookie-cutter thrash-death tone found on CULT OF DEATH. It\’s not weak or thinly-produced, mind you…far from it!…but I liked the production of the first two albums better simply because it gave the band a sound that set them apart from other death-thrash hybrids. The other major change is the fact they seem to have gotten a bit darker in lyrical tone and level of seriousness…they\’ve found their focus and have become more intense in delivering it. K.J. is an excellent fit as the band\’s new vocalist, aggressive in style yet easy to understand, sounding a bit like Malevolent Creation\’s Brett Hoffmann. In fact, Malevolent Creation is a fairly obvious influence on the band\’s new sound.
The eight tracks on the disc add up to about 43 and a half minutes and the cuts in general are longer and more complex than songs on their previous albums. Two, which both feature more death influences than thrash, clock in at over six and a half minutes apiece and are definitely the band\’s most mature pieces to date, namely the vicious title track and my personal favorite – the downright eerily-evil \”Serpent Of The Deep,\” which calls to mind shades of classic cuts like Morbid Angel\’s \”God Of Emptiness.\” Fans of the band\’s faster material need not fear, though, for there are still plenty of razor-sharp riffs, furious speed bursts, and blast-beat assaults on tracks like explosive leadoff cut \”Deathammer,\” psychotically-hammering \”Necrophiliac Lust,\” and the raging \”Witchstorm.\” K.J. also delivers an interesting touch to a couple of tracks like \”Pit Of The Possessed\” – clean-vocal spoken word passages, adding a nice \’evil atmospheric\’ touch to the cuts. None of the songs can be considered weak, but other than the two slower cuts, none of the other tracks really stand out as particularly memorable either.
Truth be told, I like the first two albums better, but CULT OF DEATH is still a strong, energetic, and focused thrash-death hybrid offering and fans of the band and the style in general should give it a listen. Might take a couple spins to get used to the new sound, but it\’ll grow on you.
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