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When these big packages come from WWIII music for me, it's like a mix of all three kinds of days: I'm excited, as I know there's probably a pretty cool album within, an average one, and one that will be soon holding up the short leg on my dinner table. They have the entire range covered [yes, that was sarcasm], which is not surprising as right out of the gate they have signed so many bands - or have agreed to fund the re-release of a lot of older albums. There are just that not many really good bands in the scene, it's a natural law, and when a label signs forty bands at once, there's going to be a few dogs that sneak over the border because they look like more attractive breeds. Severance aren't exactly the latter, they're more of an average band, fitting nicely into that middle category: the kind of group that sells a lot of albums because of the big push their label (hopefully) gives them, they end up in all the stores, their stuff is released at the same time as some of the higher profile stuff, etc. Having said that, this is not a "bad" band, not at all. The problem is that in the style of music they play (sort of an old school-referencing brutal death metal) there are just so many other bands already in this scene that it becomes very, very hard to distinguish one from the other.
You want to know what Severance really sounds like? Listen to Coffin Text's last album - the one that came out on Dwell, who these guys from WWIII records were formerly associated with. Listen to any other album in this genre at random. Why not? They're all the same. I can understand bands like this: they have talent you can depend on, their guitarists can shred, they really have fun playing the kind of music they broadcast, and the entire thing must just be an enjoyable, relaxing thing for them, something for them to do while drinking beer and kicking back every once in a while. Why not? Their excitement is palpable here, the energy from that is probably the only thing really holding this album together. Being in a band is good, right? It beats watching TV. At this stage in the history of music there are so many guitarists in the world it's kind of stunning if you really think about it. Do all these people have talent? Sure. I think that everyone has musical talent - this is something I was taught very early on when I was forced into choir practice and music lessons when I was nine years old - it just needs to be developed. Of course there are those who are more "gifted" than others, but the fact of the matter is that almost anyone can pick up a guitar and learn how to play music in a little while, if they stick with it. Death metal - the most rudimentary form of it - is extremely simple to play, and the distorted guitars and rough productions supposedly hide many mistakes which you would catch in more "mainstream" bands. Therefore there are many bands like this - that is to say...operating on the same guiding principles we find here. For a group like Severance, they have talent to spare, and once you penetrate into the depths of this album, cutting through the first track's clichés - really getting to the meat of the matter, where they're just writing for themselves and not trying to impress anyone - you'll hear that talent coming through. This is good, solid, dependable, meat & potatoes death metal - but like I said before, it is the kind so many other bands feature. I'm not exaggerating at all when I say that there are probably five hundred bands in the world that sound exactly like this one, but these days you can walk down the street throwing stones and you'll hit a few death metal guitarists. Try it one day. It makes originality all that much more important.
There are some monumentally heavy moments on this disc - listen to the end of the title track and the beginning of the next song, "Without Light", for example. The issue is not talent so much as... direction, a matter of style. The riffing doesn't really travel anywhere other than in basic song-building cycles and structural segments... they serve to hold up the pulpit for the vocalist, but that's about it. The guitarists don't really have the ability to form a narration with their music, to allow it to lead them to a different place other than the inevitable end of the song. Listening to Severance is like spinning in a circle, kicking up sand... it's fun, sure, but I'm in the same place when it's all over, with a lot less energy, and if I'm not careful I might dig a pit which I can't get out of. This is the kind of writing that killed death metal in the first place, you know, all of these bands who might not exactly be trying to copy another band (usually they are just trying to replicate moments of enjoyment they had while listening to other music), but who write predictable, silent (in that it doesn't really say anything to me) metal that appears on the scene, sucks the money from a few stupid working class enthusiasts or teenagers, and then disappears again. Music like this is a virus: it convinces other people that they, too, can form a band, and the sickness spreads. Some may like it, but I think it's really only for the truly dedicated, the diehards. However, at least it's not goregrind! If this band would listen to me for one half of a second, I would only say to them: "Please write more original music next time, you're on the right track!"
Disregard the ignorant negative ramblings written elsewhere about this debut album from Texas death metallers Severance. This is one of those underground death metal albums that has received mixed reviews, getting moderate acclaim in some, while being unfairly & excessively maligned in others. That reflects that this album is only for the ears of those who appreciate & understand truly UNDERGROUND death metal that while very solid musically, has an unforgivingly raw, unrefined, no-frills sound & attitude.
Anyone following the death metal underground for over a decade should know these darkened death metal veterans from border town McAllen, Texas. They have been around a great many years before most underground death metal bands of today, & certainly many years before the overhyped, so called 'Texas death metal' of more recent years. After many years of plugging away in the underground with different line-ups, & having recorded two demos, an EP on Drowned Productions- later to become Repulse Records- & a self financed MCD, this debut album was finally set to be issued by Repulse, only for the label to fold. Fortunately the album did eventually see the light of day in the form of different versions by labels like Blackend, WWIII, & Sevared Records/Burning Dogma, which is the version reviewed here.
Following the band's brilliant dark death metal opus 'Salvation Denied' MCD, I had a good idea what to expect here, & no mistake about it, 'What Lies Ahead' doesn't disappoint. The band doesn't goof about with intros of any sort, but instead pummel the listenter with brutal, infectious dark death metal riffing, pounding drum blasts, & harsh, aggressive death growls right from the beginning. What is immediately evident is that the band has achieved a rawer sound this time, both in the guitars, & the vocals as well, with vocalist Joe Vasquez having slightly altered his vocals to express more of a bleak, emotive & brooding anger. The vocals can generally be compared to old Vital Remains, Deicide, or Suffocation. The new vocal style includes some extended harsh growls where the 'note' for lack of a better word, is grunted for an extended duration. These growls needed some getting used to, but do eventually convince, & sometimes remind of similar growls performed by
Brett Hoffman on the first two Malevolent Creation albums, except Joe's vocals are decidely lower & more guttural, & he belts out an unrelenting brutal vocal delivery all throughout the album.
A dark, aggressive, & obscure atmosphere manifests throughout this album, accompanied by fine songwriting & musical skills. In particular, the lead guitar work is impressive from guitar duo Ralph Gutierrez & Lupe Duque. There are no filler songs or riffs anywhere. The highlight song would have to be 'As I Wait', where the album truly excels. This song possesses your soul with some of the darkest & diabolically memorable death metal riffs you're ever likely to hear. Another aspect comparable to Vital Remains is the song durations, being that Severance also compose longer songs, & are actually quite competent at this, being that the songs flow well, despite being lengthy & composed of numerous changes.
Worthy of special mention is that the band re-recorded 'Cross-Breeding' from the 'Salvation Denied' MCD here, & I was surprised to hear the band has re-composed this song, with some of the riffs from the old version ousted, & some new riffs introduced. I was questioning why the song was changed to begin with, as the previous version was effective, but rest assured, the new riffs are equally good, & this new version does succeed as well.
The production, while quite raw & underground sounding, is more than effective, despite reviews elsewhere being critical of the mix, with ridiculous claims that riffs or drums can't be heard, or songs can't be distinguished. I have to question what was clogging the ears of those 'writers' - are you listening Metal Curse & ABHORRED? I can clearly hear everything from the frenzied riffing to the blazing drums.
The Sevared Records/Burning Dogma version of the CD also includes the two tracks from the band's 'Abysmal Ascent' EP from '92 as a bonus, showing how far the band's sound has evolved from those early days, when they had a more decidedly old school thrashing death metal sound, but still dark sounding & violent nonetheless. The original cover artwork of the EP even graces the inside CD tray of this version of the album, adding a good visual to the CD's excellent overall packaging. There is also a hidden track, a cover version of a certain well known US death metal band- think 'Corpse'- whom I question why of all bands was chosen as a cover song, given how much more underground Severance are, both in spirit & sound, but still is covered very well.
Fortunately, with the different versions of this album circulating, it doesn't seem to be difficult to find, & the band was still selling the actual version reviewed here last I heard. So then, if underground dark death metal similar to the early days of bands such as Immolation, Morbid Angel, Vital Remains, & the like is your chalice of blood, then you need this slab of darkened death in your collection.
Alright, here's the scenario: Strap someone into a chair, Put a Severance CD in the stereo, and dangle Devourment's "Molesting The Decapitated" from a string, just barely out of reach. That's the kind of torture you will subject yourself to, if you are so brave as to spend 13 dollars of your hard earned cash on this painfully tedious and generic piece of crap. There is virtually nothing here for the educated fan of Brutal Death Metal. However, if you have never heard bands like Suffocation and Monstrosity, this might be right up your alley. There are a few redeeming qualities, like the overall solid production (although the drums are somewhat obscured) and a few decent slam riffs here and there. Severance need something more than a competent studio engineer to keep your attention, though. The other 96% of this horrific cookie cutter release is plagiarized right from the catalogue(s) of Death Metal bands of olde. And what the fuck is with the 6-7 minute songs?! They didn't think that 2-3 minutes of mundane music was enough? Had they stuck to the typical song length, this album would clock in at a much more merciful 18 minutes or so. But instead, when you add the equally pathetic "Salvation Denied EP", You have a whopping 74 MINUTES of utter boredom. Now, let's break the actual "music" down for analysis, shall we? The vocals are standard issue Death growls, only they seem very non-natural, and are ridiculously laughable at points like the intro to "Damned at Birth". You know that sound when you choke someone repeatedly in Metal Gear Solid? Imagine that as a Death Metal growl, and you have a perfect example of what I'm talking about. The guitars are basically a flurry of random tremolo picked stupidity, and completely drown out the rest of the band. The bass, I can't say anything about BECAUSE I CAN'T HEAR IT. Same goes for the drums.
This album is so mind-numbinlgy terrible, that the next time I go to the dentist for a root canal, I'll bring this CD along with me to save some money on anesthesia. All that lies ahead for this release is the bargain bin at the used record store. SNORE