Released: 2015, Self-released
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
After more than 20 years of willful neglect and indifference, I found myself back in the clutches of the Catholic church thanks to a Polish Catholic girlfriend who became my Polish Catholic wife – taking one for the team, as it were. Part of the re-assimilation – which included marriage prep classes so we could have a church wedding in Poland – was confession, which I had not been to since my confirmation, eons ago.
Among my “sins” was partaking of “interests of a prurient nature” - which would encompass a good portion of the reviews and features I've been doing for decades for this site and many other outlets, given the sacrilegious/blasphemous/ultra-violent subject matter of the death/black/thrash metal I do so enjoy. Case in point, Denver's relative newcomers Pile of Priests, who probably deserve a separate confessional for their name alone and the various connotations – none of them holy – that it evokes.
The old school epic death metal trio have just self-released their debut album, a raw, malevolent and ambitious effort that should be right up the alley of those with “interests of a prurient nature.” With tracks like “Templars Of Sodomy,” “Deranged Youth Succession,” “Torture Chamber,” and “Incantations Of Old,” these guys cover just about all the illicit bases on Void To Enlightenment.
This is rude and crude death metal at its rudest and crudest, boasting a primitive production and unpolished mix that give Enlightenment a '90s-style demo-quality sound that recalls, but certainly never mimics, nascent Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel or Dissection. But it's effectively abrasive, fitting the grim, nihilistic mood of the songs to a T and offering the perfect platform for Evan Salvador's diabolical, throat-slashed growling.
At times – as on the 9-minute “Deranged Youth Succession,” the textured instrumental “Akeru” or the moody first half of “Maleficent” - the gritty, thinnish sound costs the band some of the grandiosity they may have been aspiring to. But for the slightly more modest “Templars of Sodomy,” the blunt-force “The Tribulation” or “Maleficent's” furious finale, the brutal majesty rings true, with the ragged edges giving them even more authority.
And the conviction of the compositions is certainly matched by the band's performances, as these guys tackle the technical demands of the material with aplomb. Salvador's screeching, deftly placed leads and Patrick Leyn's nimble, almost funky bass lines show some genuine pizazz and there is an air of fiendish grace in the longer, more intricate tracks that the production values – or relative lack thereof - can't disguise.
Enlightenment shows Pile of Priests have the chops to warrant the attention that would allow for bigger and better next time out – either through a label deal or more robust recording budget. If nothing else, it's a solid start. Honest to god.