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The refined touch of death - 85%

TheNotrap, October 2nd, 2020

At a time when hybrid styles are taking over, there are still death metal bands like Gorephilia that remain faithful to a more orthodox approach, linked to a more visceral side of the genre. This greater conservatism, besides conveying the artist's aesthetic taste, also preserves the legacy of earlier bands that helped to build the foundations of death metal. With their first EP and two subsequent full-lengths, Finnish Gorephilia clearly positioned themselves on that conservative side of the barricade without, however, remaining static. While their debut album Embodiment of Death displayed a heavy, dense sound, sometimes bordering on brutal death metal, their 2017 follow-up Embodiment of Death has already shown a more atmospheric, murky approach. This mutation has revealed an adversity to stagnation that I find quite relevant, showing not only an exciting creative impulse but also a markedly open personality (within the style).

Unfortunately, the band's most recent years were also marked by the suicide of vocalist Henri Emil Kuula (aka Nemesis) in 2018, which led to guitarist Jukka Aho taking over the vocals. Although the band obviously felt the loss of their long-time comrade, the fact that the line-up remained stable for the next two years contributed decisively to the symbiosis present in In the Eye of Nothing. A good chemistry between musicians is an essential factor not only for musical cohesiveness but also for the solidity of the team. I like to feel that I'm dealing with a band, a collectivity, and not with a random set of musicians linked only by circumstances.

The first thing I noticed when diving into In the Eye of Nothing was its Morbid Angel-ish approach, which although not exactly a novelty in the band's signature, it had never felt so strongly. Songs like 'Walls of Weeping Eyes', 'Perpetual Procession', or 'Ouroboran Labyrinth' are fine examples of Trey Azagthoth & Co's omnipresence. However, despite the obvious stylistic similarities, we never feel we're dealing with a cloning, but rather with a student's personal view towards the teacher's work. It doesn't bother me when bands have no compunction in showing their influences, on the contrary, it reveals their genuineness and rock and roll spirit. This complacency for similarity is even more acceptable when dealing with a more conservative style, which rarely presents major stylistic deviations.

In the Eye of Nothing mostly swings between slow and mid-paced tempos, with a special focus on detail. One can safely say that it is the band's most refined album to date. A product of maturity and experience, if you wish. The first two tracks, 'Walls of Weeping Eyes' and 'Perpetual Procession' are both faithful introductions to this more polished approach. Nevertheless, despite its more restrained and cerebral nature, we still find the necessary contrasts within and between songs. The relation between the doom-ish 'Devotion Upon the Worm' and the relentless 'Simplicity of Decay' are a good example of existing contrasts. A song like 'Not for the Weak', with its dynamic riffing and tempo, also illustrates this subtle diversity. It would be excessive to imply that the band has never been so cohesive, given the solidity of their work, however, I feel the lads have never been so focused. Everything seems meticulously thought out and rehearsed. 'Walls of Weeping Eyes', 'Ouroboran Labyrinth', and 'Ark of the Undecipherable' all mirror this refinement splendidly, being probably the album's most emblematic tracks. The blend of early 90's Morbid Angel textures with Finnish old-school death metal, layered by cavern-like filth a la Krypts or Incantation, is the core of a formula that flows smoothly for forty-three minutes. The narrative is always cohesive and coherent.

As I mentioned earlier, the symbiosis among musicians is felt throughout the album, with emphasis on a solid rhythm section that accompanies the guitar dynamics in perfect synchrony. The beginning of 'Not for the Weak' is one of the finest examples of this synergy. Jukka Aho's vocals fit the band's style perfectly, thus proving to be the right choice to replace the late Henri Emil Kuula. Instrumentally, guitar solos are the weakest link, which despite having the proper spirit, do not possess the mastery of guitarists like Trey Azagthoth. Nevertheless, lead guitars are far from being the most significant ingredient in a style focused on intensity and overall atmosphere. Something the band manages to deliver remarkably well. The polished, but not too clean, production fits perfectly with the album's signature, enhancing a flavor that I would say stands between Blessed Are the Sick and Covenant, with a darker, more cavernous touch, reminiscent of the band's DNA.

Gorephilia has never released the same album twice, and In the Eye of Nothing is no exception. With a refined Morbid Angel-esque approach, the band enters the new decade with its most polished release to date. It is a testimony to obscure elegance and an indispensable addition to any refined death metal collection.

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