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Lago - Marianas - 86%

T3X, October 7th, 2013

Lago is a death metal outfit from Phoenix Arizona. Dumping a subgenre tag on these guys or simply comparing them to other bands would prove difficult and a disservice to the band. Just “death metal” will do. I can say that they draw on the old-school, but they definitely sound in the here-and-now. There are shifts in the music between frantic tempos and doomier sections, but the majority of the material sits at a nice mid-paced, head-banging, riff-churning level, and never gets bogged down or boring.

Speaking of riff-churning, Lago are pretty close to masterful at playing concise, catchy riffs that carry that familiar death metal sound while containing a subtle complexity and uniqueness in their composition. There is some good tight palm-muting and fast chug-heavy riffing amongst some nastier tremolo picked chaos. They also make excellent use of some dissonant ringing chords (think Gorguts or Ulcerate minus anything avant garde or too weird). I see the connections that can be made to Morbid Angel, but never does it sound like the band is sticking too tight to its influences. In fact, the songs sound a lot more ‘inspired’ by OSDM than ‘influenced’ by any band in particular.

The bass and drums pound along nicely to the massive guitar riffing and add their own little twists and embellishments. Drummer Shawn Reiterman shows his talent especially in the slower dissonant sections of “Arbitrary Conflict,” giving the wonky, jangly chords a solid foundation groove with some really original fills. Manuel Dominguez’s lead work is just excellent, melodic while complimenting the disharmony of everything going on around him. I can hesitantly compare him to Trey Azagthoth and James Murphy, but he is definitely a force all his own.

Cole Jacobsen’s vocals fit the music well, they are low and guttural, full of power. Nothing particularly new or interesting going on here, but well-executed. However, I find Garrett Thomas’s higher pitched and more manic backing vocals to be ill-fitting and somewhat off-putting. Thankfully they do not intrude too often and they don’t do much damage to the songs.

This is a solid EP that sports some really fantastic elements. The songs are all memorable, but more variety or experimentation would be appreciated if the band tackles a longer release format.

(Originally written for http://abloodredpath.blogspot.ca/)