Most prejudice is based on reality. Sometimes, in fact most often, it is a selective and limited view of reality, but then again so are all views of reality. There are, however, times when prejudices are smashed and destroyed, proven entirely false – and not just I-don’t-agree-with-that-because-beliefs false, but factually incorrect. Of Fire’s Death do us all was such a case for me. Upon quickly perusing the promo-material, I wrote it off almost immediately.
Sure, Of Fire were discovered and produced by Tomas Skogsberg, the mastermind of Sunlight Studio and the Swedish death metal sound I grew up with and loved. As someone who hasn’t kept up with death metal for 15+ years, that really told me nothing – for all I knew, Skogsberg might be all into metalcore and melodic punk rock these days. The album was described as “death metal” and “death’n roll”, which I suspected was some kind of codeword for Deathcore, possibly with socially conscious lyrics. Hot damn, was I proven wrong.
Now, Death do us all is not simply #oldschooldeathmetalrevival2017, though there are elements of that. There is certainly a strong base of Skogsberg’s sound. It’s easy to compare to early Entombed, as well as Wolverine Blues era Entombed. Other mentionables would be Dismember and even General Surgery, though this album isn’t heavy on the grind. The “roll” part was not at all a code word for core, but simply a very accurate word used to describe a superbly catchy style, in which the very characteristic death metal melodies are preformed with a great sense of groove.
Not technical death metal, not brutal death metal (though it certainly is brutal), not progressive death metal – but also not a simple throwback. The production is slightly clearer, heavier and more “professional” than on Mr. Skogsberg’s many 90’s classics, but it retains everything good about them. The drum sound comes across as expressing real drums, being played, and not like some over compressed drum machine. The guitars are heavy and violently distorted, as the bass chews away at the roots of the Tree of Life. Having already mentioned Wolverine Blues, I might as well go out on a limb and say that the vocals are better on this album. While I’ve long since grown accustomed to the vocals on Entombed’s game changing album, I remember being extremely put off by them at first. They came too close to hardcore and thrash for my liking. Robin Joelsson keeps it closer to traditional Swedish death vox, sounding kind of like if Jon Nödtveidt had decided to do deeper growls.
The promo I received didn’t include any lyrics, but if they’re anything like those of the preceding album Carnage Fever Of Fire will not be joining Bob Dylan in winning the Nobel Prize of literature. At times, we’re talking early Mayhem quality, but with a more death metallic twist. This suits me just fine – from what I can overhear, Of Fire growls just the right things to match their violent music.
Death do us all has taught me a few things. First of all, Tomas Skogsberg is still more into producing good death metal than producing any type of core. Second, the Swedish death metal sound that Skogsberg pioneered is neither dead nor a sterile artifact. It’s still possible to develop it creatively, without succumbing to pure copy cat behavior, nor to mindless experiments. Finally, Of Fire is a pretty goddamn awesome band.
You’ll have to wait a while for this one, which isn’t released until April 14th. Keep an eye on the band’s Facebook page for further information on how to acquire it (yes, there will be a cassette version). While waiting, you can check out an unbelievably death metal video for the track “Scavengers”. Swedish metal heads in water, and a hefty chunk of mondo gore mean it’s not for everyone, but if you don’t like wet long haired dudes, you can just minimize the window and enjoy the track instead.
Death metal is not dead.