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Floridian death metal has never really gone away; it does appear that its hey-day seems to have passed in recent years, according to many of the detractors anyway. However, The Skeletal reminds us that the original sound built upon by the likes of Death, Massacre, Deicide and Obituary is not only still breathing but still emitting an ugly foggy mist over our playing field.
The Plague Rituals reconnects the death underground with a myriad of familiar elements, but rather than roll your eyes at much of the same vocalist Kam Lee and company rip the doors off the old school with such chaotic and inflaming gore-laced death metal that you are torn asunder. Lee’s vocals are as vital and brutal as they ever were in Massacre, pulling even the most unimpressed metalhead into the sewer of bloody paintings from the warped and precise imagination of his personal mental dungeon. The man knows how to issue a statement, grand and usually terrifyingly grotesque with such brutal artistry put to verse.
This album shreds a lot of contemporaries to nothingness simply because the riffs are chugging chasms of deadly anger emanating from power chords and sickening visuals offered in “The Skeletal”, which has one hell of a resounding galloping riff that can incite even the most minuscule of men to become raging pit machines. Lee’s vocals here in particular are growling manifestations of violent insanity, battering without remorse any and all weaklings. By the time “The Dead Shed” moves into my ears I’m at full-boil and ready to get up and start flinging furniture around my stylishly-decorated abode, ready and willing to face the inevitable clean-up that will undoubtedly take days. The music all over this release is top-quality death metal that doesn’t pound into your brain for the sake of orchestrated volatility; the crisp and nicely shined undertow is a precise, yet fluid bit of polishing that buffs just enough to clarify the feel, yet leaves nothing out in terms of brutality. For a U.S. band to still produce such great DM like this makes me quite happy that Lee is still around and making some organic tunes like this. The man believes in what he preaches and it shows in the work here. His ethic is never in question.
“Ancient Sacred Evil” is the slower track that just disseminates horror and the feeling of something ‘lying-in-wait’, like proverbial eyes always watching you, and Lee’s tempestuous tone does little to dissuade your fears and concerns. The paced, drudging of the guitars make this song one of the more brilliant on the album. Kam’s “You shall know its name” delivery that he literally hisses out without pretense or whoring is exactly what real death metal has lost over the years. It would figure that it would take of the movement’s earliest pioneers to reassemble the milieu accordingly, showing all of us in one fell swoop what has been missing and where to find such brilliance.
To be void of backside-kissing, this is one of the best DM releases of the year for me. The lack of polluted jargon is what propels The Plague Rituals well past its peers and redesigns the drawing board sheets in direct accordance to a past too easily liquefied and wiped clean with a dirty rag. There is no margin for question here, people - Kam Lee is still around and still angry, and if you’re lucky he may invite you into his macabre world of fantasy that only we chosen few can understand and enjoy.
(Originally written for www.metalpsalter.com)