Kruelty – Untopia (Profound Lore Records)Monday, 20th March 2023
Japan is known for an eclectic and unique twist on many styles of music. What the country isn’t typically known for are incessantly smashing, angsty death/doom/hardcore amalgamations. In reality, there’s a high pedigree for all things on the heavy side of music. Coffins, for example, is one of the very best Japanese musical exports in the last few decades, with an untypical and filthy approach to death infused doom metal. Don’t forget lesser known (but no less crushing) bands such as Burden of Despair, as well as impactful but defunct acts like Dyingrace, among many others of vastly varying approach. Kruelty is here to increase that pedigree, having first debuted in 2019 with the acclaimed A Dying Truth, breeding an intriguing mixture that was incessantly punishing.
With the band’s latest and second full-length Untopia, the bar is raised on every conceivable level. This is a band with an unlimited supply of venom, who somehow have managed to further advance their anger-laden brand of aural assault. Album opener “Unknown Nightmare” teases with a mysterious lead in, before launching into an absolutely menacing riff-filled bludgeoning. The twin guitar mayhem courtesy of Zuma and Ken has a fuzzy doom inspired tone that cuts deep, with death metal meets metallic hardcore slam kind of riffing that doesn’t give a moment to breathe. Vocalist Tatami delivers a maniacal growl that fits the frenetic nature of the music, while bassist Seina and drummer Mani provide the backbone with a rhythm section that brings enormous heft.
Songs such as “Harder Than Before” and “Manufactured Insanity” blaze by in a flash, but not without leaving a crater of death metal meets rageful devastation. My goodness, one can’t get past those riffs, and even a little bit of black metal inspiring leads that add further dimensions. Brutal death metal blends seamlessly with meaty hardcore on “Burn the System” and “Reincarnation” – both featuring furious guitar work and well-incorporated breakdowns that flowingly add weight to the compositions.
A significant doom essence drives “Maze of Suffering” with its crawling and imposing pace, being the most prominent showcase of that side of the band. Metallic hardcore lead tones launch closer and title track “Untopia,” containing a brilliant mixture of tempo changes that put forth all of the band’s strengths in what is the most varied and creative song on offer.
Kruelty have created one of the most resolutely heavy and hardest-hitting albums one will hear in 2023. Boasting the nuance of Russia’s Crust with fellow Tokyo natives Coffins’ death/doom grit, Kruelty is an untamed sonic monster. Having further dialed in their signature style while leveling up the intensity into stratospheric heights, Untopia is a take no prisoners, lay everything and everyone to waste kind of album that needs to be heard. This is going to produce carnage in a live setting. We love to see it.