Having been on hiatus for much of 2015, Philadelphia-based death/grind outfit Castle Freak have returned with a new EP, Human Hive, and a new rhythm section. Joining founding vocalist/guitarist Andrew Gigan and second guitarist Zak Carter is ex-Necropsy bassist Ben Aft, and ex-Necropsy/Noisem drummer Sebastian Phillips.
Human Hive is an excellent follow up to 2014’s Still Rotting; the buzzsaw, 80’s/early 90’s sounding riffs are still in full effect, Andrew’s vocals are of the high-pitched Chuck Schuldiner variety, and a crushing rhythm section. “Sickening Corpses” sets the pace, and basically represents the EP as a whole, with the old sci-fi/horror soundclips, grindy opening riff, and d-beat section. The guitar tone is super fuzzy, and reminds me of the early 90’s Swedish death metal scene, particularly Entombed and Dismember. There’s a distinctly old-school tone to Human Hive (for example, listen to the solo in the middle of the title track), with a lot of reverb drenching everything. While I enjoyed it for the most part, when Castle Freak goes into full grindcore mode, the cymbals tend to overpower everything else in the mix, making the tone a little muddy. Still, it hearkens back to the early days of extreme metal, with the grind sections reminding me of Repulsion.
Overall, Human Hive is a pretty solid release from a band that seems to have found the perfect combination of members. If you like your death metal mixed with a little punked up grindcore, pick up a copy today!