Death metal, once upon a time, was considered the harshest, most extreme form of heavy metal, and that was without even taking lyrics into consideration. Early albums by Death, Morbid Angel, and Sepultura head a real sense of menace in their sound, pushing the boundaries to new (and to many people, terrifying) extremes. As the style caught on, more bands started playing death metal, and it began to get watered down, and lost much of its shock factor, though the lyrical content has certainly continued to reach new levels of depravity. Enter Dayton, Ohio’s Engraved Darkness with their debut release, Diabolical Scriptures.
Diabolical Scriptures is a really ugly sounding record (in terms of mood and tone), dripping with menace and brutality. I almost want to call Engraved Darkness a blackened death metal band, due to the inclusion of such black metal elements as shrieking vocals and tremolo picked guitar riffs. That wouldn’t be an entirely accurate description, though, since Engraved Darkness have much more in common with death metal. “Darkened Grave,” for instance, is a brutal piece of death metal music, but the solo towards the end sounds like mid-90s black metal. The following track, “Fate Divine,” continues this trend of evil-sounding, crushingly heavy death metal, falling somewhere between early Morbid Angel and Incantation. The layered vocals mix high-pitched shrieks with deep death growls reminiscent of reminiscent of Frank Mullen’s in Suffocation. “The Purity Of Evil” is my pick for best track, clocking in around 8 minutes, and again, has a heavy Incantation vibe, particularly their more death/doom oriented material.
Engraved Darkness have crafted an intense, unholy masterpiece with Diabolical Scriptures that hearkens back to the early days of death metal, while deftly avoiding sounding dated. The production has a slightly raw feel, thanks in part to the buzzy guitar distortion, but this really helps create a dark atmosphere. The low-end is really thick, but doesn’t overpower the excellent lead guitar work, and manages to not get too muddy. This is a great record from a promising new band, keep an eye out for it!