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Death metal has undergone many changes in the last decade or so and I’m talking not about the development of sub-genres but rather a toned down approach which is primarily disguised as old school. Death metal in the 90s drew a tremendous amount of influence from thrash metal where bands like Cannibal Corpse, Malevolent Creation, Deicide etc created some of the most violent songs that will stand the test of time. It doesn’t take an ultra-perceptive ear to notice the dilution of the most basic of all traits – riffs. Violent and unadulterated riffs are the cornerstones of death metal which make the head go up and down in an animalistic manner. The rage and the subsequent elation are directly proportional to the quality of riffs. So my respect for Purgatory grows manifold based on the simple fact that they continue to manage to deliver one fearsome album after the other. There is no cult to be found here. Listening to Purgatory is like a sitting in a bullet train – straight and direct. No pretenses, no buried riffs, no crap, nothing; just straightforward thrashy death metal.
Purgatory’s roots lay in old school American and European death metal and it’s those roots that are firmly entrenched in the band’s DNA till now. ‘Blessed with Flames of Hate’ is a non-stop riff machine assimilating tons of blast beats. ‘Damned and Betrayed’ kickstarts the album with furious intensity. Cut to 1:09 and you’ll hear what I’m talking about. That’s pure seething hatred firmly entrenched in those riffs. The whole album is filled with similar parts that will even make the most drunken death metal fan get up and take notice (but then the metal fan is never drunk!). ‘Visions Beyond Light’ has a Deicide feel to it and in addition one cannot help but notice the spite in Sick’s vocals. The album does not let you go at any point of time. Let me reiterate, that this is a riff dominated release. After a short interlude, Purgatory is back to business. ‘Blessed with Flames’ incorporates a high intensity thrashy feel to it.
In a nutshell, watch out for a huge amount of riffs, a thrashy vibe and blast beats. In my opinion, Purgatory has not received the credit that they deserve. If at any point of time you were excited by the barrage of riffs provided by Malevolent Creation, Sadistic Intent, Deicide, Possessed, Suffocation, Morgoth, Asphyx etc, Purgatory will exactly provide that.
Sometimes bands like Purgatory and Maveth leave me a bit cold. The pummeling tremolo punctuated by dirge and marching riffs gets repetitive. Purgatory are better at this style of songwriting than many, however.
Blessed with Flames of Hate has the band really locked in tight and playing well together. The album has a live recording feeling. It's got a lot of melody to it, but it is not melodic death metal. It's crushing meat-and-potatoes death metal.
The well-recorded, pummeling drums rely heavily on brass finesse and tight fills with occasional blast beats thrown in for emphasis. Guitar rhythms are vaguely similar to late-era Morbid Angel and sometimes there is an added layer of black metal high-speed chord strumming in the background behind the tremolo parts. Bass is present, but the bass lines are minimal, adding to the dynamics of the recording.
That brings me to the better quality of the recording: dynamics. There is not a lot of grandiose composition and structure. There's no rollercoaster in Purgatory apparently, only a very bumpy and fast lunar rover ride with tight and precise use of very small silences and fading guitar chords before more pummeling.
This album is better than their 2011 Necromanteon effort because it's a bit more raw and it seems that the drummer occasionally takes his cue from the other instruments as though it were a live recording, and though it offers a heavy dose of thrashing, it doesn't sound like any thrash band that I have ever heard before, which is almost something special. Above average death-metal.
Lastly, the album has a good bit of character. There are little snippets of poetry in the lyrics and they do occasionally wind into a drawn out melody where the drums back off.
I always like albums where you can hear the effort and love (er, hate?) what went into making it.