Stench - In Putrescence
Agonia Records
Death Metal
8 songs (30:58)
Release year: 2010
Stench, Agonia Records
Reviewed by Charles
No doubt connoisseurs of Swedish death metal will remember Tribulation’s excellent debut album The Horror, from 2009. This was an exciting work of raging old-time death metal in the classicist vein of early Entombed, early Morbid Angel, and so on, filled with breakneck thrash tempos and savage riffing. Well, two members of that band surfaced in alternate guise late last year, in the form of Stench. Johannes Andersson, who did the vocals in Tribulation, here plays drums and guitarist Johnathan Hulten also plays (on bass as well this time, and doing a bloody good job of the latter). They are joined by Mikael Pettersson on vocals for In Putrescense, another old-school death metal album, though one which is more calculated and doesn’t quite let rip in the same way.

The songwriting here places less emphasis on the punkish vomit-rush of The Horror (though this remains an important element) and instead strays closer to the jolting, winding songwriting of pre-Slaughter of the Soul At the Gates (this is a comparison I saw various other reviewers adopting which didn’t occur to me immediately, but which I now can’t shake whenever I hear it). The sound of records like With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness (an album I bought when I was first getting into death metal on the strength of its title alone) always seemed off-puttingly ramshackle to me; each song full of sudden riff-twists, like ugly, spidery constructions that were ever in danger of collapsing into a confused clutter of different elements. Sometimes Stench seem to offer a more immediately palatable take on that; one that is more ready to stick to a steady tempo and mediate the strange, meandering approach to composition. The likeness is heightened by Pettersson’s Lindberg-evoking scream.

So excellent opener The Blackness hints at the kind of unsettled, almost whining proto-melodeath ideas which are a staple of the album. It revels in sudden breakaways into momentum-crushing tempo-confusion which are immediately submerged by onrushes of gallopingly tight death metal riffing. This approach makes for some really brilliant ‘short, sharp shock’ tunes, such as the blistering two-and-a-half-minute Face of Death, a riotous slab of punkish riffing accompanied by some brilliantly hyperactive bass guitar mayhem. The latter is a particularly conspicuous element of In Putrescence, adding a sort of twangy malevolence to large swathes of it. But their whole approach, like with early At the Gates also makes for oddball assemblages of thought-train disruptions like Ghost, which seems to languish uncomfortably amongst slower tempos that make it feel longer than its four-minute running time. And the six-minute Drenched in the Light seems to shift around every few seconds, experimenting with curiously zigzagging lead lines, fleeting diversions into almost jazzy rhythmic ideas, and sometimes even trailing off entirely into faint ripples of near-silent guitar. It is by equal measures intriguing and frustrating.

That’s it, then. I would recommend that most death metal listeners give this at least a try.

Killing Songs :
The Blackness, Face of Death, Drenched in the Light
Charles quoted 75 / 100
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