Reviewed: [December 2021]
Released [2021 Listenable Records]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Despite losing all-star drummer Nicholas Barker after re-emerging in 2017 with Demonization, on-again, off-again death-grind super-group Lock Up have come back all the more “super” with their fifth full-length The Dregs Of Hades.
Taking over for Barker is Misery Index/Pig Destroyer/Scour drummer Adam Jarvis, who can flail and blast with the best of them. And returning to the fold for The Dregs of Hades after a one-album break is long-time frontman Tomas Lindberg (At The Gates, etc.), who teams with Kevin Sharp (ex-Brutal Truth) to give Lock Up a two-headed monster vocal presence and bring some added flavor to their trademark brutality.
The band’s sound, anchored by Napalm Death bassist and lone Lock Up constant Shane Embury and Criminal/Pentagram Chile guitarist Anton Reisenegger, remains largely unchanged – furious but hooky death metal often played at grindcore velocity with a bit of hardcore chunkiness thrown in for some extra punch. The mode of delivery, though is that much more assaultive with Lindberg shouting in one ear and Sharp growling into the other.
The pair split things about as equally as can be here, trading off line by line for pretty much all of the verses and doubling up for choruses or hook lines. There are some rare exceptions, like “Black Illumination” where Lindberg handles the bulk of the vocals. But mostly it is a share and share alike shouting match that is certainly effective and never sounds forced or contrived.
After the electronic intro “Death Itself, Brother Of Sleep,” Dregs blasts off “Hell Will Plague The Ruins” and – as is usually the case where Lock Up is concerned – keeps the gas pedal pushed through the floor most of the way until things conclude with the menacing brood of “Crucifixion Of Distorted Existence.” With his quick feet and agile fills, Jarvis was the perfect choice to take over for Barker and the band quite literally don’t miss a beat here as a result.
This is a band that is used to making adjustments – Reisenegger took over after original guitarist Jesse Pintado passed away, Lindberg picked up the mic from Hypocrisy’s Peter Tägtgren after the legendary 1999 debut Pleasures Pave Sewers and then yielded to Sharp before returning. And the lineup has always been a bunch of old pros who have been able to take the death-grind ball and keep running with it.
With The Dregs of Hades, Lock Up are most certainly “on again,” at least in the studio sense – it will be interesting to see if they are able to play together at all given that their day-job bands have either already lined up tours for 2022 or have things in the works, COVID permitting of course. The album is as satisfying a slab of slash and burn death grind as one might expect, with the dual vocal attack delivering an extra kick in the ass that probably isn’t necessary, but is appreciated nonetheless.