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Poland's veteran black/death metal band Stillborn this year returns with their fourth full length album, Los Asesinos del Sur. With excellent Polish exports in recent years such as Infernal War, Vader and the likes pushing the limits of extreme metal, it will be exciting to hear what Stillborn, as one of the veterans out of Poland has to offer with their latest output.
Overture .966 sets the mood right with an intro that is fit for a Black Sabbath record, but brutalised with the ominous sounds of war sirens overhead, giving listeners a hint of the chaos that Stillborn is going to wreak in the coming 30 minutes. The intro gives a taste to what is coming, and as Hymn of Destruction begins, the listener is instantly reminded of a heavier version of fellow Polish blackened death metal bands such as Behemoth and Hate, though they have chosen to devote their energy into their crushing riffs rather than on speed. The chaotic and sharp lead guitars that are so characteristic of the Polish style of extreme metal is also present throughout, and Stillborn provides a nice balance between sheer brutality and face-ripping speed.
There are some gripes here and there though, as at times the drums threaten to go out of sync with the rest of the instruments, but this surprisingly adds to the authenticity of the album, complete with a raw and loud production job that brings out the raw energy bursting from the band. The abilities of the individual members are also evident, and drummer August unleashes some serious punishment on the skins with the constant blast beats and furious fills. The martial sounding drumming at the beginning of Blood and Dust also reinforces the mood of the album. The guitarists' innovation are also evident such as the play on the whammy bar on Antonym, though guitar solos are pretty rare affairs on the album.
Songs like Son of the Holy Motherfucker provides some nice fist-pumping moments as well, with listeners easily following the catchy song title. Blood and Dust and the title track Los Asesinos del Sur further displays the songwriting capabilities of the band, with the band building up the atmosphere and climax before letting all hell break loose. The beginning of Los Asesinos del Sur further brings in the comparison with Behemoth with what they have done in their later works, and is sure to captivate fans of the aforementioned band. The Spanish lyrics also somehow make the song sound more gruff and barbaric, to my delight. It is also on this track that finally lets guitarists Rzułty and Killer display their prowess on their instruments. Stillborn II is one of the speediest number on the album, and further displays the versatility of the band.
While the beginning of the album takes some getting used to, Los Aesinos del Sur certainly gets more enjoyable as it progresses, with some of the best tracks being located towards the end of the album. The generally short run times of the track also ensure that those with ADD have enough patience to sit through the tracks from start to end.