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Deathstench – Massed in Black Shadow


There’s always been a number of shared aesthetic elements between the grittier variants of Black Metal and Death Industrial. Whenever you attend a concert showcasing either genre, you could see the cross pollination in the crowd. The common disregard for polished production, use of feedback as an instrument, and nihilistic or adversarial themes have led to a few cross-over artists, mostly notably being early Cold Meat Industry veterans MZ. 412, all the way up to the more recent Gnaw their Tongues. It’s also worth noting that Relapse Records recognized something similar in the Death/Grindcore Metal and Power Electronics genres via their Release Entertainment sublabel. While there’s always been a fair number of success in the Grindcore/Power Electronics mix, in the early years I was disappointed with how few of the Black Metal/Industrial acts bring anything worthwhile to the table, with the successful ones taking a more drone/ambient approach. For the most part, you were left with a hodgepodge of stereotypical caricatures of each genre (sorry, Mysticum), which I believe was a byproduct of a misguided yearning to remain elite or true to a hardcore base. This has changed over the past few years, I’ve noticed, with bands such as Gnaw their Tongues gaining much acclaim and Sunn O))) hitting critical mass.

When I first received some Deathstench promotional material from Black Goat Records a few years ago, I hesitated to give it a listen. I was getting bombarded with “cult” Black Metal acts that could have been reissues of old Darkthrone records. But I noticed John Paul Whetzel and Darea Plantin in the credits, both from the cult metal band Pro-death that I remember seeing live in my teenage years. Back in the 90’s, Pro-death was known to integrate noise and black ambient sounds into their anti-humanist death metal live performances and were outspoken critics of animal testing. The two of them also released material under Welter in thy Blood and The Slaughtered Lamb, which borrowed more from Black and Doom Metal influences than Death Metal. The Deathstench record I heard at the time was a split with Demonologists, Incantations in Dead Tongues. I was surprised to hear how well Whetzel and Plantin applied the atmospheric and minimalist guitar production elements of Black Metal to distorted synths, stitched sample collages and droning loops. While I understand the intentions behind their submerged production sound, I felt it was done almost to a fault and did wish their sound was more pronounced.

Since that release, I’ve kept Deathstench in my radar. To hear that Malignant Records was releasing a new, fully mastered album on their new Black Plagve sublabel was a pleasant affirmation of the potential I heard in the project early on. Massed in Black Shadow builds upon that successful alchemy of their earlier work and emerges from the pit of unmastered production Hell with the help of Billy Anderson (Neurosis, Swans, Mr. Bungle). Now the true abomination of their work arises like a rotting corpse out a shallow grave. On “Extractum ex Infernis” a droning rhythmic intro creates a foundation upon which homicide samples and distorted vocals paint a grisly death scene – classic Death Industrial. “Corpse Upon a Throne of Wyrms” brings in more of the grim Doom/Black Metal influence with somber guitar riffs shredding through a host of maggots. “Symbols in Warm Flesh” switches back to a more traditional Power Electronics sound, focusing on layered gargled synth noise. Female wails at the end of the track sent serious chills down my spine, mixed perfectly into the background so that it creeps up on you, akin to ghastly screams within a wall. “Circle of Black Blood” recreates the sound of early Abruptum without the cheese. The vocals sit within a vibrating void, and backtracked samples play with your sense of place and time. “Shrine of Viscera” forgoes the flirtations and goes all in with masterful bit of old school Black Metal, blast beats and all, and then self-immolates with high intensity synth and guitar feedback.

How fitting that the final track, titled “Bastards of the Black Flame” (featuring Cory Rowell of the aforementioned Demonologists), is because, in many ways, that is exactly who Deathstench and this new breed of Blackened Noise are. The byproducts of an unholy union between some of the most violent forms of music, in both sound and ideologies, Deathstench has been bred to be one of the most vicious of its genealogy. With over 20 years of experience in extreme music behind this duo, I believe this latest album to be the consummate confluence of all their influences. Black Plagve has proven its mission goal in exposing extreme Death Industrial, and this gives me much to look forward to from all involved.

Track List:

01) Extractum ex Infernis
02) Corpse upon a Throne of Wyrms
03) Symbols in Warm Flesh
04) Circle of Black Blood
05) Shrine of Viscera
06) Bastards of the Black Flame

Rating: 5/5
Written by: Raul A.
Label: Black Plagve (US) / INFECT 11 / CD
Noise / Power Electronics / Black Noise