Carnation – Cursed Mortality (Season of Mist)

Monday, 30th October 2023
Rating: 8.5/10

Belgian death metal band Carnation have been held a cut above the rest of the old school worshippers since their 2018 debut full-length Chapel of Abhorrence, and for good reason. While many attempt to merely replicate the buzzing, swirling sound of the early Swedish death metal scene, Carnation have made it a very clear point that they can dish out some innovation, as well as some invigorating riff power, into their particular take on the the classic formula. To that end, not much has changed with their third effort, Cursed Mortality, though a few moments may perk up some ears for sure – but no doubt about it, Carnation continue to bring the highest caliber material to the table.

The first few tracks on Cursed Mortality may not take anyone aback with their style and technique, but there’s still no denying how potent Carnation can be. “Maruta” is a stomping, bone-shattering train of death metal groove that hits in all the right places. Triumphant, heavy, and all but guaranteed to stick in your mind after your first listen, the combination of melody amid their pummeling attack hits viciously and memorably. Likewise, “Metropolis” is an absolute battering ram of a song, with blast-ridden speed runs and oppressive mid-tempo riffs in the slowdown, all augmented by some excellent melodic enhancements. The first ‘whoa’ comes with “Replicant,” which opens on a much more melodic note, complete with (you guessed it) clean vocals. For those waiting to cry afoul, they are well-executed and serve the more melodic portions of the song to a tee. It’s a new flavor for the band, but it’s so woven into their old school death template that it feels like an entirely natural progression.

Not to worry, because the next track, “Dutroux,” leaps right for the throat from the onset, as if to remind the listener that they aren’t messing around when it comes to brutality. It’s brutal, but it also has this more massive scope to it that makes it stand out compared to the tracks before it. Likewise, “Cycle of Suffering” does it’s best to do the same, with that winning combination of buzzing guitar riffs and slick melodies that the band is so skilled at deploying. The title track, which ends the album, sits as one of Carnation’s more grand amibitions, and they totally nail it. Taking a page from “Replicant,” they employ some more clean vocals, but this track is far more epic in scope. The melodies alone as the song builds initially give it a sense of grandeur that makes it feel like a high note is coming for the band to end on. It’s not until almost three minutes into the song that the ripping guitars finally set off into explosive territory, and the song continues to explore this more downtrodden and melancholic notion that feels like Carnation is fully spreading their wings towards something even more potent.

Carnation continues to step up their game and evolve in natural ways with each new album. Not content to simply mimic the ‘glory days’ of the genre, they position themselves as a band that’s ready to pick up the torch and lead the way towards something even more masterful. Cursed Mortality is a new high mark for the act, standing tall and proud to anyone who wants to champion a band who knows how to make old school death metal feel more fresh and exciting again.

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