Thursday 15 December 2022

Defleshed - Grind Over Matter (2022)

Country: Sweden
Style: Death/Thrash Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 28 Oct 2022
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Album title notwithstanding, this is not grindcore. This is thrash metal with a serious side of death and it hails from Uppsala in Sweden, courtesy of a band who are back in business after a long time away. Lars Löfven formed Defleshed in 1991 and they put out five albums before calling it a day in 2005. Well, they reformed last year and here's the first studio offering from the band, featuring a line-up that's picking up where it left off on their previous effort, Reclaim the Beat no fewer than seventeen years ago.

I can't remember if I heard Defleshed back in the day. I probably did, but nothing particular comes to mind. I like this album though and I liked it as soon as it kicked in hard. This is a fast and furious album that sits maybe halfway between thrash and thrash/death. It reminds the most of Teutonic thrash stalwarts like Kreator and Destruction, whether we're talking the pace, which is frantic, or the rough but clean vocals of Gustaf Jorde. If you like them, you'll probably like this, right down to the phrasing of the instruments as they shift from verse to chorus.

However, Jorde's bass and Löfven's guitars are tuned quite a way down from either of those bands and there are strong hints of a death growl in that vocal too, especially early on with Bent Out of Shape, even though it remains entirely intelligible throughout. The result is a death/thrash hybrid that brings a band like Vader to mind but it's not quite so brutal. I'd place Defleshed a little closer to Kreator than I would Vader, if you drew a line between the two and asked me where. It feels like thrash immersed in death rather than the other way round.

The worst thing about the album is that there's very little variety between the eleven tracks that are included here. The only real change is that, however many times I listen through, it appears to have more death early on than it does when it finishes, as if the density of the sound shifts across half an hour and change. It may be merely illusion, as our subconsciouses acknowledge its balance between genres, but then again it seems to run me through that cycle again when I hit repeat. In reality, it's highly consistent, each song following a very similar template.

The best thing is that it's an excellent template to follow and the production helps it succeed. This is a power trio, with Löfven the only guitarist, Jorde doubling up on vocals and bass and new fish of long standing Matte Modin behind the drumkit. That means that we can easily hear everyone and they combine into a furious sound that's rooted in Löfven's strong riffing, which is a constant plus, with Jorde's dynamic vocals over the top and Modin a windmill of activity at the back.

Almost every song begins with a similarly sounding power chord, which explodes up to full speed in no time flat with Modin having full control over that accelerator pedal. Then Löfven establishes a riff good enough to take us through the three minutes or so each of these blitzkriegs lasts. Before long, Jorde's voice takes the spotlight so he can spit out a pretty straightforward lyric in English. We can understand everything he says but we don't care. We're focused on his intonation and the riffing that's carrying us through the song. And then it's over, because this isn't epic music. Even the longest songs here don't make the four minute mark.

Why I still get surprised at just how much energy a trio can generate, I have no idea, given that it's been almost forty years since I heard Ace of Spades and Black Metal and Just Like Something from Hell, but there's still a wonder there I never get when there's one more musician in the line-up. It seems fair to say that Defleshed generate a lot of energy. Set up a small club right at the centre of a reactor, wait for the pit to kick in and the result could power Sweden.

Maybe not every song is as relentless as Staring Blind or Blast Beast, my personal picks from this tasty bunch of eleven as a standout, but none of the others are far behind. In fact, the band only pause for a breather twice, during the intros to Blood Well Spent and Last Nail in the Coffin, both of which are back up to full intensity by the fifteen second mark. Defleshed simply aren't hanging around here. They've been gone for fifteen years and it feels like they're trying to make up for lost time. I'm actually tempted to give this an 8/10 but I think it needs a little more variety. If you don't care about that, then this is an 8/10 for you.

Welcome back, folks. This is as reliable as it gets and I want to see you on stage soon blowing away the headliners with sheer energy.

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