|Regressive Death metal from Finland. Their 2nd album from 2009
1. Summoning (The True Face of Evil) 06:24
2. Stormtroopers 05:41
3. The Smoke 07:08
4. Unveil the Passage 01:19
5. Abomination 06:28
6. Last Rites 05:20
7. Downfall 06:28
Total playing time 38:51
One hell of a swansong - 97%
Written by iamntbatman on November 19th, 2009
Sometimes the most oft-used descriptions are the most accurate. In the case of Slugathor, the term "old-school" gets tossed around quite a bit and in this case, the description absolutely fits. The band worships at the altar of the heaviest death metal bands of yore but, impressively, has transformed from a "me too" old school death metal band into a crushing juggernaut of creative inspiration.
The biggest influence on Echoes From Beneath is probably Bolt Thrower, evidenced by the massively drop-tuned chugging guitar riffs, slower, doomy moments, moderate use of melodic elements and generally pummeling atmosphere. Other influences also rear their heads, notably older Finnish death metal bands such as Demigod. The songs are essentially riff-fests that move between chugging, thrash type riffs, faster tremolo sections and taffy-like doom sections. The guitar tone is absolutely gigantic. It's heavily distorted but there's almost no treble in this tone, just pure bassy goodness. As with Bolt Thrower's Those Once Loyal, the band manages to achieve this ludicrously low, heavy tone while still somehow leaving room for the bass to be heard. It just plays along with the guitar riffs for the most part but adds considerable weight to the already Louie Anderson-giving-a-piggyback-ride-to-Rosie-O'Donnell weight provided by the guitars. This ridiculously low riffing style leaves the higher end of the EQ free for those melodic leads to fill up. They're usually slow-burning affairs that occur during the vocal-free segments of the songs and there aren't really many solos going on (halfway through "The Smoke" there's something that's somewhere between a lead melody and a solo, which is pretty representative of the lead guitar work on the album) but they do contribute to the melodicism and add some much needed high end in what's otherwise a very bassy mix.
I'm not normally a fan of ultra-deep growling, but the vocal approach Slugathor have always had and maintain on Echoes From Beneath is refreshing and the vocals are pulled off flawlessly so I can't help but love them. Essentially, the main vocals are along the lines of something you'd hear on a doom/death or even funeral doom album. Think Evoken and you're not too far off the mark. They're delivered in a slow, drawn-out way that lends a strong sense of oppressive atmosphere to the album. What really makes them special, though, are the straightforward black metal shrieks that serve as backing vocals. I'm not just talking about a couple of instances on the album, I'm talking about heavy use of these backing vocals that double the main vocals for about half of the album. They could stand to be a little higher in the mix, honestly, but they sound really good and mix perfectly with the deeper growls. You don't hear this kind of thing often enough in old-school death metal.
The drumming is very much in the Bolt Thrower vein. Faster riffs are usually kept in time with pounding double bass rolls and steady cymbal-snare patterns or a fairly simple punk beat. The slower sections have some really minimalist drumming, often just a cymbal keeping time with some accent drum hits. A few of the album's fastest riffs get the blastbeat treatment, but these are rare. The fills are pretty simple, as well. Overall the drumming is far from mind-blowingly technical but amping up the technicality over riffs as bone crushing as these would only make the drums sound over-indulgent.
The production and songwriting are the best we've yet seen from Slugathor. This record is more atmospheric than anything they've recorded before and it's really a treat to see a band use an influence like Bolt Thrower to craft something in a similar vein yet with a completely different aura about it. The way the band brings in the slow riff from opener "Summoning" into the closing minutes of the album are just plain class. This is absolutely essential listening for fans of crushing old-school death metal. Fans of more modern styles should give it a listen, too, as it's a lesson in how to instill weight into riffs and songs without resorting to blinding speed or technicality. A landmark release in the genre.