Ashcloud – Kingdom of the Damned (Xtreem Music)

Thursday, 22nd June 2017
Rating: 8/10

Sweden’s Ashcloud presents a familiar scenario: A bunch of old-school vets get together to play…old-school death metal. It’s not like no one can progress these days, it’s just that no one wants to, and while it may be appropriate to argue Ashcloud and its subsequent Kingdom of the Damned third full-length foray is a safe release, there’s actually enough grime-soaked, abyssal atmosphere to impress any worn-out or jaded death metal fiend.

The product of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Jonny Pettersson (also of Wombbath, Henry Kane, Pale King, Gods Forsaken) and guitarist Gareth Nash (Body Harvest, Ageless Oblivion), Ashcloud funnels classic Swedish DM through a vortex of harsh atmosphere. It’s almost like they’re dipping their toes into subterranean DM territory, but not enough to override the whole thing. It’s exemplified on the simply ripping “Suspended in Death” and “Dansa på krossade skallar,” the latter bringing home a nifty melodic sequence in between crunchy riffing. Elsewhere, “The Serpent King” unearths small bits of vintage Goth (just imagine it slowed down) while “The Seven Trumpets of Hell” emerges as the album’s nastiest cut, a veritable garish slab of meaty DM worked up nicely by Pettersson’s ungodly roar.

You almost have to temper your enthusiasm with releases like Kingdom of the Damned, if only because so many have come and gone without leaving an impression. Old-school death metal is total saturation city, the product of too many bands and musicians, for that matter, taking the convenient route. Ashcloud, on the other hand, is a true diamond in the rough, showing on Kingdom of the Damned that there’s still plenty of life in the long-flogged, aging body of old-school death metal.

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