In a broadly similar vein as the saying “a week is a long time in politics”, referring to seismic shifts that can occur in a short space of time, bands who disappear for an extended length of time can often be an entirely different beast when they do eventually return, be it new members or a new sound, or even both. So when Canadian death metal trailblazers Blood of Christ unexpectedly released their first new material in fourteen years (2017 single ‘Echoes From the 7th Dimension’) fans and pundits alike all wondered the same thing: would they sound the same, or not?
The answer, rather refreshingly, is “both”. Their fourth album, the descriptively titled Unrelenting Declivity of Anguish, released in May of this year by CDN Records, cleverly manages to combine their classic death metal sound with a more ambitious style of writing and song structuring, one that adds layers of complexity and texture to several tracks on the album. Take track one, ‘Bane of Pestilence’, which ticks all the right death metal boxes (heavy, brutally fast in sections, vocalist Chris Gooding’s growled style that comes straight from the depths of Hell) but also adds in several brief bass solos and some rather interesting stop-start moments, as well as a head-turning power metal style intro.
Lead single ‘Echoes…’ continues this expansive, ‘kitchen sink’ approach to songwriting: it’s a complex track that alternatively judders, races and throws out rapidly changing time signatures, all anchored by sticksman Jason Longo’s excellent drumming. Finally, ‘Dragooned by Jupiter’ wraps up this new BoC sound with a subdued, rather ‘Ground Control to Major Tom’-sounding intro which segues into a pummelling, ‘fist to the face’ blast around thirty seconds in and morphs into a flailing beast of a track that slows down only to showcase a slower, almost prog metal midsection before all the loose threads are tied together during the riff-laden outro. Phew!
From there the album treads a more familiar path for fans of BoC: heavy as f**k, moments of unabashed melody and a more straightforward method of songwriting in terms of structure and pace. Both ‘Obese Legions: Fed to the Ravenous Wolves’ and ‘Iron River…Conquer the Wilderness’ are sterling examples of proud, classic death metal, both darkly atmospheric and gloriously heavy. ‘The Cursed’, which runs for a rather epic seven and a half minutes, is heavy enough to destroy a building and violent enough to bash your face in, and the title track, which rounds up the album, is a relentless, pounding and aggressive number that any death metal band would feel justifiably proud to have written (and the inclusion of synthesisers adds a retro touch that will surprise and delight in equal measure).
Unrelenting Declivity of Anguish is almost a tale of two bands, rather than one: the old Blood of Christ and the new. It’s a rather dense, complex album, the first half of which shows more experimentation, and which will require several listens to ‘get the hang of’: a grower, not a show-er, as it were. Once you ‘get it’, though? It’s a thing of dark, barbaric beauty: a brutal combination of a classic death metal band and a band stretching its wings and growing into something far more than ‘just’ that. Taking an extended break can be a risky exercise, and can often leave a band wondering who they actually are. Other times – as with BoC – it can distil the essence of a band and create a base on which they can grow into something even better; more than seemed possible all those years ago.
Review by Melanie Brehaut
Pre Order: HERE
- Bane of Pestilence
- Echoes From the 7th Dimension
- Dragooned by Jupiter
- Obese Legions: Fed to The Ravenous Wolves
- Iron River… Conquer the Wilderness
- The Cursed
- Unrelenting Declivity of Anguish
- Jason Longo | drums, cymbals & saw blade
- Chris Gooding | guttural emissions
- Mark Chandler | the bass player
- Jeff Longo | cosmic rhythms & grind chords
- Recorded during Autumn 2017 at Icehouse Studios
- Produced by Blood of Christ & Thomas Ireland
- Engineered & Mixed by Thomas Ireland
- Mastered by Jean-François Dagenais
- Artwork by Silent-Q Design & Headsplit Design
- Band photography by Debbie Bento