Reviewed: [April 2020]
Released [2020 Willowtip Records]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Sometimes you can judge a book, or in this case an album, by its cover. Wrath Encompassed, the third full-length from Topeka, Kansas-based brutes Unmerciful delivers everything its name, title and the demonic presence on its ominous cover art promises. There’s no caveat emptor here, what you see is what you get – 40 minutes of “Carnage Unleashed” and “Blazing Hatred” delivered with “Furious Precision,” to borrow the titles of three of the tracks here.
The band’s Willowtip debut kicks off, appropriately, with “The Incineration” and, as alluded to above, pretty much keeps the flamethrower on full blast throughout. Hack-and-slash riffs and hurtling blast-beat tempos abound as Unmerciful channel the most savage aspects of peers like Origin and Cannibal Corpse – with whom guitarist Clinton Appelhanz and bassist Jeremy Turner have – Suffocation, Hate Eternal and Malevolent Creation, while going easier on the dizzying technicality or sternum-stomping grooves that are more typical of the others.
That’s not to say Wrath Encompassed is entirely lacking in either department – “Predator to Prey” and the title track offer heaving, breakdown-like sections and all of the tracks here demand a certain level of dexterity to handle the sheer velocity. It’s just that the focus for Unmerciful here seems more directed toward expressing or releasing pent-up aggression that impressing with their chops or providing space for folks to simply headbang and catch their breath.
Most of the tracks open with drag-race acceleration. There’s little build up or introductory sentiment – the light turns green and off these guys go. So new drummer Trynt Kelly and vocalist Justin Riley never have a chance to ease into things here, it’s grab your helmet and right into the cockpit with the both of them.
But each is more than up to the challenge – especially Kelly, whose tempos are rarely anything other than furious but manages to flail away like a champ. Riley at least gets a bit of a hand from Turner, Appelhanz and guitarist Justin Payne, who add screams and growls above or below his scabrous bellow, a la Nile, but proves an authoritative presence nonetheless.
As an exercise in unbridled brutality, Wrath Encompassed is everything you could ask for. There aren’t much in the way of intangibles to trip the band up here – though a few more memorable hooks might not have hurt – and they drive their fury home with an abandon that pretty much renders them moot anyway.