In an effort to provide useful overviews and scout for potentially good releases, this time we shall go over the catalogue that Final Gate Records has made available through their bandcamp portal. Some might say that this is too hasty an evaluation to provide worth, but I shall merely limit myself to reply that with some experience, one can evaluate certain qualities that are of interest to a particular group. While some may be interest in production quality, or distracted by musicianship abilities, I will look for underground metal as an art form reaching for the transcendental on its own terms.
§ The List
This is pretty much generic pseudo Swedish death metal ala Left Hand Path followed to its roots in Bolt Thrower and performed according to its most plebeian and ridiculous fanfare without any of the quality shown by more veteran acts.
Ungod Bewitched by Sins and Lust
This is the kind of record that could have been great but was stopped short by an over-eagerness to call it a day and relying too much on the effect on the riff itself. There are excellent riff strands here, but in the overall curve of songs, these amount to little else than compelling moments in which there is no particular lingering feeling but that of triviality in what could have been more than a passingly entertaining black metal album.
Carnation Cemetery of the Insane
This is yet another standard American almost-death metal act bouncing around in tropes but never amounting to much more than tough guy attitudes. Utterly reliant on short jumpy riffs and an odd combination of Scandinavian melodic riffs ala Carnage while remaining annoyingly American. The artwork seems completely irrelevant in light of the complete superficiality and lack of depth explored through the music.
Islay The Angels’ Share
Yet another metalcore act attempting to kind of be melodic death metal. All surface, no essence. Nothing in particular stands out here except a particular will to destroy a vague memory of death metal by making it rock music. This cannot be forgiven.
Graveyard Ghoul Tomb of the Mouldered Corpses
Graveyard Ghoul would appear to be the death metal counterpart to what Ungod is in this list, for it also contains the correct musical direction and a certain sense of construction but it stops short of linking it to a meaningful overall work of art that can bridge these proper structures capable of concrete communication with the underlying complexity of emotions and intuitions that they are supposed to evoke. A second “almost” on this list.
Graveyard Ghoul / Cryptic Blood split
The story is no different for Graveyard Ghoul here, despite having one track on this split that is considerably longer than their average songs. Unfortunately, the extra running time was used for more of the same with no intention of enriching the song whatsoever. Now, Cryptic Blood has a much more interesting proposition that reaches back to Black Sabbath through Incantation. The problem with this second band is that they seem to think that the style and the traditional riffs will magically make a song for them. This is messy and meaningless music.
Graveyard Ghoul The Living Cemetery
Apart from an much improved production and a certain structural clarity to the songs, Graveyard Ghoul could be said to have learned only a little from their past experience. However, it is fair to say there is a noticeable improvement in the longer tracks that allow for a climax. The only problem is that endings go nowhere and short songs do not have the appropriate grindcore nature nor do they amount to something that speaks in terms of their own stylistic language (cavernous, melodic phrasal death metal, that is).
This is a very bad, very blatant, very obvious, very superficial imitation of Black Sabbath that does not even reach the toes of commercial Ozzy Osbourne’s solo career.
Funeral Whore / Obscure Infinity split
Again, more second hand, imitation death metal that is C-grade at its best point, and most plausibly only meaningless banter in recognizable forms that are already tropes and buzzwords within the traditional death metal lingo. This goes equally for both bands, though they are distinguishable. Their musical irrelevance makes it completely unnecessary to do so, however.
Reckless Manslaughter Blast Into Oblivion
The music is as idiotic and incoherent as the band and release names are. There is little here to say except that it is shameless lowest common denominator garbage.
Blatant and completely unnecessary imitation (not emulation, but outright stealing) of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid. Who knows why these bands even exist or why any respectable underground label would accept and push this.
Abscession Grave Offerings
By far the best death metal release on this list despite falling on the “safe” side of the more accessible Left Hand Path emulating camp. This release is able to escape outright imitation and extend from emulation into something that may start to be something of their own. Coherence is strong and meaningful song construction with a balance of mechanics is in place here.
Impactor Prepare for Impact
Another very odd, laughable attempt at direct and blatant imitation of classics. This tries quite hard at being Kreator while trying not to be it by being closer to a speed death but lacking the chops to do either very well. The speed metal is alright but nothing outstanding. Forgettable and utterly unnecessary. Its death metal side is merely provisional to make more riffs.
Impactor Arise in Decay
There is more technical riffcraft and a clearer sense of transitions here than in Prepare for Impact that make this much more respectable yet one still wonders why this music should still be made in this exact same format. It is music of a particular context, completely locked in time, which is entirely meaningless today. As pure music, it is entertaining, but nothing more.
Gloom Warfare Misanthropy on Forward March
Irrelevant, boring, meaninglessly repetitive industrial rock trying to be a little metal. Effects and ambience introduced for drama increase but it only makes the music so much more ridiculous and leading nowhere.
By far the most unique and mature album in musical terms on this list, Christbait was originally released in 1992 and was one of several grindcore glories unmatched to date for their conservative yet adventurousness that preserves drive within coherent narrative, consistent style and a correct evaluation of lengths and proportions given its own musical language. It is now offered in vinyl format by Final Gate Records.
Harm The Evil
It is, at first, quite difficult to distinguish whether this is messy speed metal or just very mediocre death metal. Tropes mix in but then structural treatment revea that the ultimate intention is to make a very safe yet aggressive kind of death metal that can appeal to the Pantera crowd as much as the fans of catchy Morbid Angel in the post-Covenant era. The Evil is formulaic, unoriginal and overextended in relation to the way material is treated. Sterile, plastic music.
The only releases that deserve any attention here are Abscession’s Grave Offerings and Blood’s Christbait. The rest, frankly, does not even deserve a second try. Abscession shows promise of growth, while their present album is good for a few spins although completely irrelevant given the artful quality of classics of the traditional underground. Christbait is a classic in its own right and is the highlight that surpass everything else on this list by a longshot.