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Tales of the Coffin Born was an elaborately narrated and woven death metal blunt object. Kam and Rogga tearing up some olskool death metal beatdowns accompanied by an Evil Dead 2 influenced narration banging on about Poe-influenced horrors and woes - bit of a treat for the bookwormish death metal nerd. The follow-up The Facts and Terrifying Testament of Mason Hamilton: Tsathoggua Tales takes itself even more tongue-in-cheek seriously, with a booklet laid out like a case file (photos, newspaper cuttings, cheesy "patient descriptions" of the band members and so forth) to accompany the B-movie mouthfuls that are the album and song titles. For example, 'Chapter IV (The Caverns): Among Black Slime and Mushroom People'. You've got to be shitting me. That's terrific.
It's basically about this bloke who goes to an island, sees some Lovecraftian shiz going down, goes bonkers and ends up in both the news and the nuthouse. So if you're a fan of the occult, Nihilist, Dismember and writers with the initials H.P., you're already on board. It's morbid early '90s death metal and monster stories gone mad, so murder and mayhem as standard.
The churning mid-paced pummel that characterized songs like 'Coffin Birth' is back to give the d-beat based carnage some kind of frame, and Rogga's violently inflected Swedeath riffs do the job proper. Like what Entrails are doing but with a bit more leery moon-touched insanity in there. 'Entrapped Within Atlach' features my favourite of the raging Left Hand Path riffs here, likely to have you cheerily bloodying your forehead against your bedroom walls and/ or surrounding humans as you listen. 'Arrival: Tomb of Toads' has a great chug going on, not to mention a real catchy, stomping motif that mashes you up in the middle. 'Amongst Black Slime and Mushroom People' not only takes the cake for best song title but has another particularly savage chugging armour. That's basically what this record is - bit of thrusty Bolt Thrower pounding, Swedish d-beats, frowny-face tremolo riffs and lots of booming chasmic slow sequences.
The drums pound along crisply, nothing world-changing but there's an efficient killing machine beneath the rumpled heavy hide of guitars and bass that is this album's primary weapon. The propulsive 'Psychopompos Lamentations of a Dying World' has a smattering of blasts but otherwise its fairly rhythmic stuff. The production is pretty heavy hitting, clear and distinct but with a massive guitar tone. Leveling is good with Kam and Rogga managing to avoid drowning one another out.
Kam Lee puts in probably the most noticeably superior performance compared to lat time round. He's a bawling, raging madman on this release, giving his harsh growls a bit of a serial killer on the rampage feel. Incensed, maddened chants on 'A Terrifying Testament' and Chthonic incantations on a couple tracks later on are among his moments of originality, otherwise low register threats and some splattering rasps are par for the course.
One thing it's sorta missing is the harrowing epics the debut ended with, namely 'Sepulcher Macabre' and 'Fall of the House of the Grotesque'. In fact the album seems to get faster as it goes on, rather than again leading to a miserably hued epic climax. 'Gaze of Ghatanothoa' has a more rousing aspect to its tremolo progressions,which works, but the near seven-minute closer 'Dreams of Terrors in Darkness and Horrors out of Shadows' just sort of rambles on. Probably the only damp moment moment here, until the fists in the air climax that is, which gives it the sort of redemption I'm guessing never availed Mr. Hamilton.
It doesn't beat you quite as black and blue with earworm hooks and catchy riffs like its bristling predecessor, which I still return to every now and again, but it does make for a great sequel, and The Grotesquery are still one of the more distinctive acts in the crowded old school death metal revival. It's got enough killer moments in terms of neck-snapping riffs and thuggish death metal breaks to keep you titillated if the last one had you going nuts. I mean it's basically the direct follow-up with no lapse in bile and songwriting capacity. The Grotesquery are just doing this old school death metal thing right, if you ask me.