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Hold your breath - 88%

iamntbatman, April 7th, 2015

Before you even turn this thing on you can tell it's going to be a different experience from previous Oshiego records. The Singapore thrashy death metallers have always had artwork that perfectly suited their sound - sharp, detailed and violent. This one, though, sports much more obscure, unsettling artwork. Vaguely human figures, dwarfed by their environs, interact with the strange alien landscape in ways that are hard to really grasp, one figure crossing the titular bridge while another, distorted by the otherdimensional perspective, appears to be either hanging onto the edge of the stark blue bridge (an unworthy soul, as the album title refers to the Islamic story of the crossing of the bridge to Hell) or possibly holding it aloft, preventing its collapse into the bright red flamewastes below, which would certainly put a strange spin on things.

The unusual artwork heralds a subtle, but significant change in direction in the band's sound, as well. Though Oshiego maintain their signature thrash-inflected razor-sharp, staccato mute-heavy riffing style of punishing old school death metal, there's a layer of red Martian haze floating all over this thing. For every neck-snapping, wall-punching chug there's a boiling, seething tremolo line that slops some Finnish grime into the atmosphere. Some of the guitar layering reminds me a lot of Behemoth's The Satanist (in a very good way), though this is murkier, trans-dimensional abbatoir stuff rather than decadent ritual music.

Crossing the Bridge of Siraat's production also really ties the room together. The guitar tone is really pretty much perfect for what the band is going for, with the signature tightness required for the band's more neck-snapping riffs but sort of a more mushy, amorphous high end, which smears reverby miasma over the ringing chords and heaps gloomy murk on the leads. The drum performance is top notch, but there's loads of room feel on the drum kit itself, which together with the guitars really adds a shitload of room to the sound of the album.

That's not to say that the band has gone all caverncore on us, either; there are still thuggish stomping breakdowns, punky, nearly crust bits ("Genocide, Torture, Rapture...") and there are still those vaguely Middle Eastern melodies that recall Melechesh scattered all over the place. The vocals mostly rely on the same pukey, mid-ranged barking growl of Oshiego albums of yore, but there are some sopping wet howls, hollers and shrieks that show a bit more adventurousness in the vocal delivery that I wish were utilized a bit more. While I love Master as much as the next guy, I'm also not really the biggest fan of covers in full-length albums, especially as closers, as I feel it nearly always acts as something of a jarring tonal shift and robs the band of a chance to end the album on a real statement. This cover is certainly good, but I would've rather heard some monstrous Oshiego epic as the album closer.

Though the bands aren't really directly comparable in sound, I would venture to compare this outing to recent German death metal darlings Sulphur Aeon. Both bands successfully marry a distinctly modern tightness and professionalism to a basic sound that is melodic and accessible while still having firm roots in old school death and, despite the modern sheen on everything, there's an inescapable scumminess that really adds a ton of depth and character to the album. That said, it does feel like the band are in a bit of a transition phase; the riffs and melodies aren't quite as direct or memorable as they were on the last album, and to successfully sell me on this new, somewhat more atmospheric direction I think they could turn knob up a bit on those newer elements to add a bit more emphasis to their much-welcomed presence. Nonetheless this is still a ripper of an album and a worthy addition to the Oshiego discography, and more than ever before I'm excited to hear where this band will take their sound in the future.