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While Mexican death metal horde Zombiefication‘s debut back in 2010, Midnight Stench was a pretty decent release, the band was still trying to find their sound, resulting in the album being somewhat inconsistent. Their EP last year Reaper’s Consecration saw the band solidfying their sound and style, and was an overall much more enjoyable release compared to their debut. At the Caves of Eternal is the band’s sophomore full length release, and with the stylistic shifts that the band has presented thus far with their releases, it leaves one to wonder what to expect from the band once more.
The band once again surprises listeners, as they present a sound that is more refined that what was even on Reaper’s Consecration. The old school Swedish death metal influences are clearer than ever, with the band’s musical style bearing striking resemblance to bands such as Entombed and Grave, with faster, thrashier moments being rather reminiscent of Repugnant. For instance, the riffing style and pattern of Disembodied Souls could easily fit on a Grave record with that trademark abrasive guitar tone. The drums also bring in a slight death ‘n’ roll edge at the same time, alternating between full on blasting segments and d-beats, and these manage to complement each other nicely.
However, the band has this time included much more variety in their songwriting, and instead of just one fast and relentless onslaught, there is an increased focus in the atmosphere in the music, what with the slower moments and the crushing riffs of Mr. Jacko. There are lots of slower passages on At the Caves of Eternal compared to prior releases of Zombiefication, and though the band’s music has always been rather atmospheric, this seems to take quite a centre-stage over here. The trem-picked riffs of Mr. Jacko, and that almost doomish pace that the band tends to utilise at times even brings to mind Finnish bands such as Convulse. Mr. Hitchcock’s blood-soaked vocals certainly helps in making the album have a sinister feel as well.
The entire album sees Zombiefication alternating between more straightforward, mosh-friendly sections like In the Mist and more crushing and darker ones like Passage of Darkness, providing At the Caves of Eternal with a nice variety of different sounds, and is definitely some of the finest material put out by the band so far.
Mexico's grave robbers Zombiefication had already begun the process of distinguishing themselves from the majority of Swedeath wannabes with their debut Midnight Stench, but it was hardly a gem of an album, so they're making up for that with the sophomore At the Caves of Eternal, which I would dub a dramatic improvement. I daresay I've been hearing an exhausting number of such old school throwback sounds over the course of the past 5 years, and the 'cool' factor is starting to wear thin, but there's still a decent percentage of them arriving, and we can now add this band to that list, because even if it borrows here or there, At the Caves of Eternal is good fun with depth, variety, and perhaps most importantly, a memorable atmosphere.
This is definitely the 'darker' variety of Entombed worship, the sort that makes you feel like you've fallen into a crypt on a landslide of cemetery soil and worms. Comparable to a Miasmal or Tormented. However, heavily melodic patterns run concurrent to the burgeoning rhythm guitars, and the Mexicans do a pretty bang up job of delivering haunted note progressions that make you feel like you're in some idealized horror flick. The riffs here are not always unique, but neither are they just borrowed wholesale from the usual suspects. For instance, there is a grooving, low end pattern in "Disembodied Souls" that draws heavily on a beat from old Celtic Frost. But the Mexicans conjure a number of dynamic shifts through the album that render it an excellent example of pacing. Tunes like "In the Shadowed Garden" make an almost innovative, hypnotic use of tremolo patterns before erupting into the expected, obsidian d-beats. The texturing and layering of the two rhythm guitars in tandem is voluptuous, along with the bass playing, and it just feels like the hungry undead holding an orgy and smearing dirt over one another.
Vocals are a harsh bark, drawing a bit on Chris Reifert or L-G Petrov, but not at all derivative to the point they become annoying. I love it when they're barking out and leaving shadowy echoes hovered over the rhythm section...like a haze of swamp gas. Drums are good and loud, but not enough that they crunch out the guitar playing, which is important, since there are about a half dozen excellent melodies interspersed across the album, including the titular opener. The leads aren't incredibly complex, but they wail away with a bluesy, messy abandon that hearkens back to the Entombed death & roll days. But where At the Caves of Eternal works most is in how well put together it is. The slower and faster tracks combine to create a morbid and apocryphal emotional response, and you can tell these riffs weren't all derivative enough to betray the clear amount of effort being exerted. It's not perfect, but it's definitely a solid step ahead of the debut, and an effort I'd recommend to the obvious cult audience swallowing this style up in the new century (they obviously do exist, or else I doubt the labels would be putting forth so much of this). Good on Zombiefication.