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To some it’s a transparent formula, to others it’s an art. Everything from the buzz-saw guitar tone, throaty grunts and punk styled drum patterns contributes towards the abrupt notion that this revered sub genre is indeed far from difficult to identify. But of the countless modern-day artists seeking affirmation in the style, it’s perhaps not all that surprising to note that many bands debase themselves as terribly unambiguous reproductions of the classic Swedish death of the early 90′s, without contributing too much in the way of exclusivity. This isn't by any means an automatic write-off, at least from a critical standpoint, but it’s always refreshing to see artists that place more of a contemporary spin on a style which is now firmly rooted in the old-school.
And Swedish quartet Puteraeon fit this bill flawlessly. For a band barely six years old, their work ethic is admirable. Having squeezed out two albums and a split since their demo-days of 2008/9, the bands approach reeks of motivation before even setting your ears to anything. So following their 2012 sophomore Cult Cthulhu we now have The Crawling Chaos, the latest in their line of highly hostile throwbacks to the esteemed Swedish death metal records of yesteryear. Much like their previous efforts, the album is teeming with raw aggression and relentlessly intricate riffing harking back to the halcyon days of Vomitory or Entombed. Though it’s not as predictable as you might think. From the opening chords of ‘Wrath’, we’re presented with a labored riff reminiscent of classic Autopsy, right before the double-bass kicks in and the mid-heavy riffs start cutting through the mix in a timeless fashion.
The production throws each layer at you with unmistakable fury, the crunchy guitar tone forcefully blasting through the raspy clamoring of vocalist Jonas Lindblood, who’s enunciated style is comparable to the likes of Martin van Drunen or John Tardy. In fact, Puteraeon’s approach screams Asphyx in more ways than one, highlighted by the elastic transitions between doom chord construction and piercing tremolo picking. Not all that shocking, as the band have cited Dutch death overlords (and perhaps van Drunen’s most renowned child) Pestilence as an influence on more than one occasion. But it’s the spattering of the more unusual connotations that gives the record it’s clout. The opening riff to ‘Pickmans Model’ bears a striking similarity to Carcass’s ‘Buried Dreams’, illustrating Puteraeon’s fondness for melodic harmony during slower sections. Then we have the blasting cascade of riffage present on ‘The Crawling Chaos’, one of the heaviest tracks on the record and an impeccable homage to classic Bolt Thrower.
From the bands choice of album/track titles, its no surprise that the Cthulhu mythos holds a great deal of inspiration for Puteraeon, and it always makes me chuckle to think if Lovecraft himself ever gave thought to how his writing would transcend both time and medium. I’d like to say that the album succeeds in conveying that wholly Lovecraftian sense of impending doom, but it’s my belief that this type of atmosphere is better left to, well.. doom. That said, there are moments on the album where a distinctly cataclysmic tone shines through, if only for a brief interlude before the blasting resumes chipping your face away in tiny chunks. Props to the band for attempting this feat however, as it certainly does nothing but enhance the mood of the record as a whole.
As a final note, it’s fairly typical for death metal of the old-school variety to possess a ‘what’s on the tin’ quality as far as repeated listening is concerned. Rest assured that The Crawling Chaos only shines brighter with each spin. It’s a tenacious and immensely satisfying slice of death metal with a cavalcade of groovy riffs, baroque harmonization and a frankly battering blend of old and new that is indicative of a fresher and more mature sound for the band. Fans of death metal of any description will not be left disappointed.
“The most merciful thing in the world… is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.”
- H. P. Lovecraft
Written for The Metal Observer