A lot of blackened death metal bands try to achieve the absolute, mind obliterating cacophony of Portal, and all too few succeed, primarily because they focus too much on harassing the listener with guttural shouts and self-immolating guitar rhythms.
Now, don’t get me wrong, these are important elements of that style of wind-tunnel, hell-storm metal, but what is usually left wanting is the sense of texture and form that Portal possesses. They’re a band who are not just attempting to choke you with a formless cloud of particularized dread. They have a vision and a method to their mendacity. And you can say the same for the Netherland’s Defacement.
Defacement’s founding members are originally from Libya. Vocalist and bass player Forsaken Ahmed and ax-grinder Khalil Azagoth initially traveled to Ukraine but eventually made their way West to the Netherlands, settling in the Utrecht province. There, they linked up with Italian drummer Mark Bestia of Earth and Pillers and second guitarist Xander Bradley for their debut LP Deviant.
This record is an album whose sound resembled that of Ulcerate, but only swifter, and propelled with the force and indifference of a devastatingly high waterfall. Defacement’s follow-up and a self-titled debut is just as likely to plaster you against a shallow bed of stones and reduce your bones to an ossein powder, but this time the band is more willing to construct than to simply destroy. This time, they will use the past made from your bones to mortar together a mausoleum to house an absolutely cavernous crush of terror.
Between each burst of blackened, desperate madness of Defacement’s self-titled LP, there are divergent interludes of baneful ambiance, each titled sequentially as “Limbo.” Discordant lullabies for the damned, comprising of melodies that resemble the shrieks of a tortured pit orchestra.
These passages provide a surprising amount of space for respiration between the harrowing drops into the void, providing just enough hope of reprieve to make it shocking when you are plunged under again. It’s sort of like musical waterboarding—a thrilling interrogation of the soul experienced with agonizing delight. While most of the time these vignettes of atmospherics are kept separate from the deluge of black, soul-decaying metal, they do eventual entwine in the album’s resolution, “Disenchanted.” where the synths and dark serenades rifle through the mix, depositing in their wake a sense of grave, grim finality.
I want to end by praising the horrid-sounding vocal work and the way that the guitar work makes it feel like your fleshing is being stripped off you in a sandstorm. It’s an unreasonably forceful combination that does a fair job of giving voice and feeling to the cover art—where we see depicted the chasm of a person’s face, flesh and bone forming a ragged bloody halo around a well of raw meat, as if the person’s skeleton and all their organs had erupted out of them in a single geyser of gore of suicidal despair. Beyond this point, that image, and Defacement’s music, speak for themselves.
You can buy and stream Defacement’s self-titled album below via Bandcamp.