Monday 10 February 2020

Snorlax - II (2020)

Country: Australia
Style: Blackened Death Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 3 Jan 2020
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Metal Archives

I would tend to doubt anyone who names their one man blackened death metal project after a pokémon but Snorlax is the heaviest damn pokémon of them all and that kinda fits this album. This is no nonsense stuff from Brendan Auld, who no intention of pandering to commerciality but who also has the pride to actually produce this music properly so that we can hear it. That's far from as common a scenario as it ought to be in a world where production sometimes means commercial and diehards feel the need to sabotage their own sound for reasons of authenticity.

This is Auld's debut album as Snorlax, even though it's confusingly titled II. He did issue a demo in 2018 and one song (not included here) on a split single with fellow Australian black metal outfit Drugoth last year. Giving both bands a listen, I much prefer Snorlax, who combine a slow guitar with hyperspeed blastbeats and mix up the vocals between the genres.

The opener, Infernal Devourment, ably sets the stage for what's to come with such frequent alternation between demonic growls and unholy shrieks that it almost feels like a duet between genres. The Bandcamp page says that guests do appear: Mathew Budge (of Consumed and Siberian Hell Sounds) on The Resin Tomb and Anthony Oliver (of Descent) on Impending Abysmal Wretchedness. It's worth mentioning that all three of those bands also feature one Brendan Auld in some fashion. If these are the only guests, Auld does a damn fine job of duetting with himself on other tracks.

Nothing here sounds pretty, each song rolling into the next with feedback or effects, but it all sounds dark and evocative. The opening couple of tracks are short, but The Chaos ov Iron Oppression shows that Snorlax are better at some length. Five minutes gives Auld room to set up a song, gradually deepen it by adding layers and then, after a minute and a half, pull out the stops and escalate with major effect. There's a lot of dynamic change here and it just hits the spot for me.

Mind ov Maggots follows suit, with a feedback-laden guitar intro echoing up quietly as a drone from the depths transitioning in a heartbeat to the full volume and full speed. There's despair and pain in this song and it's bitter but tasty. That intro alone is longer than The Resin Tomb, which is over as soon as it's begun but not in the condensed fashion of grindcore. It's just short. These longer songs have much more substance.

And it's that substance that makes the album for me. There are points, like the first half of Encapsulated Apocalypse, where we can just sit back so the music can wash over us like a tsunami wave and half the effect is from that impact, but it shines brightest (if that isn't an inappropriate way to talk about blackened death metal) when the assault lessens and we realise all the things that generated it to begin with.

It ends as roughly as it gets with Impending Abysmal Wretchedness, Anthony Oliver's voice even more evil than Auld's. It's not just the tone, which is agreeably disagreeable, but the way that his words drip venom and may often not be words at all but random demonic noises of dissatisfaction. Clearly I should check out Descent, for whom Auld is one of two guitarists. They put out an album, Towers of Grandiosity, a couple of years ago.

I've heard good things about Snorlax but also good things about the extreme underground in Australia, especially on the side of black metal. Clearly in my copious amounts of spare time (ha), I ought to be following up on more of the bands that Kelly Tee posts about on Facebook on a regular basis. Let's see how much more is up to this level of quality!

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