Death metal is never easy listening, but it often comes with varying degrees of accessibility and with the best stuff you can always tell where the talent is. This album from Ligature Wound goes firmly against the grain, pushes all the dials into the red and never cares about allowing any kind of melodies – no matter how obtuse – get in the way of the band’s musical art. For it must be considered a kind of performance art, as it’s hard to believe that there will be people out there who’d have enough patience to tackle this debut willingly.
Hailing from Finland, it’s unsurprising that this record is so unashamedly barbarous, with Scandinavia being the spiritual home for so many things of an extreme metal nature and all, but that still doesn’t allow for any feelings that Ligature Wound’s first full length is particularly predictable and clichéd, not only in the art department but also within the tracks’ subject matter: dismemberment, torture, disembowling…core themes of retro death metal all present in the titles. There are a lot of death bands (and particularly those within the tech-death spheres) that have given up on this 1987 shock value material and instead use their lightening speed assaults to tackle sci-fi dystopia and ancient mythologies, sophisticated newer angles that make most of this look a bit tragic.
Musically speaking, Ligature Wound just aren’t any great shakes either. The opening number ‘Undead of Night’ pretty much says it all. It starts with a huge pneumatic riff – the kind that sits at the heart of all death metal – and at the point you feel worn down, it gets faster still. The drumming is impressive – at least for a time, and assuming its not all triggers – but there’s absolutely no variety. It’s like being assaulted by drills for the duration, while a guy who sounds a little like Prong’s Tommy Victor growls and shouts. If you don’t feel the urge to either turn this off, go for a lie down or medicate yourself by the time this number has ended, the subtle as a concrete block ‘Violation’ brings a deeper sound still, with muddier drums that sound like multiple kits being thrashed at the same time coupled with a heavily downtuned riff. It sounds like a death metal swamp, with the vocalist dropping his voice about an octave to suit. Thankfully, after a few bars of this, the band settle upon a slow groove. However, that doesn’t appear to be in tune – sounding rather more the work of Ireland’s Ogre than the technical perfection of Golohor – before tempering that with a second guitar part and some hissier vocals. The slower approach should, at least in theory, make everything better, but there’s something wrong… The mix is odd and the guitars don’t seem to be in sync. Listening to this is like attempting to listen to two death metal albums at once on boomboxes. It’s unsettling, to say the least – and never in a good way. A little respite comes from a dark twin lead at the number’s end, but unless you fancy hearing what Thin Lizzy might have sounded like on a walkman with low batteries via a stretched cassette, it doesn’t really hold any genuine appeal.
Sounding like it was recorded at a different session, ‘Dismember Her’ starts out with a promising slow melodic death riff. Sadly, it’s been overlaid by a slightly off-key lead, thus rendering it unlistenable. Moving into the main meat of the track, all of the twin guitars suffer the same fate, while a lowly mixed husk of a voice doesn’t even think about fitting any of the music. Thankfully, the drumming is great – but, obviously, there are a zillion and one death metal albums with great drumming. By the mid point, the death is tempered by some jagged thrash melodies – borrowed from early Slayer – which, much like the opening riff, just don’t seem to settle in the way they should. Kudos should be given for attempting to slow down, but when doing so, this has exposed Ligature Wound’s iffy talents even more. Ending with a slower riff and huge death grunts, in the hands of a better band, this might have passed as a reasonable homage to death metal’s formative years, but given the oddly tuned guitars, an average growl and not much else, it feels like an utter slog.
Despite everything, there’s a glimmer of hope…In under three minutes, ‘My Bloody Valentine’ mixes death and grindcore in a decent homage to ‘Utopia Banished’ era Napalm Death – complete with more of a vocal bark and a punky intensity on a couple of riffs. The multiple guitar parts crank out circular riffs with abandon, the drummer wheels out a more varied attack and everything works. If you like the more classic Napalm Death or very early Carcass, there’s every chance you’ll like this. Why did they not put this at the front of the disc? Maybe it would’ve built up false hope, especially since the remaining pair of tracks revert to overly messy death metal tomes. ‘Premature Decomposure’ is a touch better than the first three tracks thanks to a more melodic riff at the outset, but all too quickly descends into pneumatics for the sake of it, while the vocals sound like they’re being shouted through a traffic cone from the end of the studio corridor. Again, some great drums are on hand, but they can’t save what’s essentially a by-numbers cranking of extreme metal themes, recycled without any real imagination, while ‘Obsessed With Torture’ closes the record with three minute’s worth of intense pneumatics and the sounds of vocal regurgitation. A grunting Lee Dorrian style, a full death metal growl, even a black metal hiss…it’s got them all but, obviously, without anything interesting to back them, it’s all degrees of extreme noise over more extreme noise. By the track’s end and the vocals slow to an almost chanting style: this is just funny…and not in a good way.
Even if you like a bit of death metal, aside from ‘My Bloody Valentine’ there’s almost nothing for you here. You’ve heard it all done before – countless times and a thousand times better. Purely and simply, this album is mostly horrible; it represents just under half an hour’s worth of brutal musical torture. Please don’t come and burn us for saying so.