Review Summary: A competent melodic death metal record that harnesses the crushing power of Bolt Thrower and Dismember with the empowering melodies of Amon Amarth, the stunning harmonized leads of At the Gates, and the chugga chugga slamma jamma ding dong of Unleashed
A competent melodic death metal record is extremely difficult to come by especially when bands like Sonic Syndicate, Blinded Colony, Soilwork, Scar Symmetry and Disarmonia Mundi are unfairly branded with the tag. Apparently as long as you riff like the old Swedish guard (At the Gates) you can add synthesizers and cleanly sung choruses to the mix and still be considered death metal. A joke I know but fortunately once in a while a band sticks to the traditional formula and gets it right which is much easier said than done. And here we have a Metal Blade record signee that goes by the handle Lay Down Rotten who is attempting to bring some credibility to the often maligned style of music. Based in Germany and forming around the late nineties, the five piece act put together a string of releases but it wasn’t until their 2009 Dan Swano produced release “Gospel Of The Wretched” that I finally became aware of this band. I tell you, Dan The Man has returned to prominence.
Merging the intensity of Bolt Thrower with the sheer crushing tone of Dismember and the stellar harmonizing abilities of vintage At the Gates is an accurate presentation of the record. Opening with the title track, the listener is greeted with an ominous sound sample/ build up with slow churning guitars and suspenseful drumming. The song starts blasting through the speakers one minute in easily recalling the aforementioned bands and the best of their abilities. A massive façade of guitars recalling the Stockholm and Gothenburg scenes jump to the forefront and meld with agonizing guttural vocals before erupting into a stunning harmonized lead. The process repeats one more time before moving onto the militaristic and ethereal Hypocrisy like death march of “Thy Won’t Be Done“.
“Gospel Of The Wretched first and foremost is a guitar driven album featuring plenty of pummeling rhythms, head banging chugs, and killer soloing. Technicality and simplicity mean just about nothing to me unless a band can compose some well crafted songs and that is exactly what Lay Down Rotten achieve. Daniel Jakobi and Nils Forster form a proficient guitar duo in creating sound arrangements and impeccable head banging anthems. Blending accessibility with heaviness equally they fuse the right amount of melody with a proportionate amount of soloing without sounding contrived or for a lack of a better word pussified.
Jost Kleinert is the band’s vocalist and although far from being original he displays a powerful and commanding vocal delivery similar to Matti Karki of Dismember. Very aggressive and thick with venomous bite his message of universal death metal hate spews convincingly enough. Throw in a few guest appearances from ex Pestilence great Martin Van Drunden and Dan Swano and you have yourself a dynamite vocal performance.
The percussion template is straight out of chapter 3: Drumming in the unofficial death metal bible. Timo Claas is a blast beat war machine through and through but also excels at dynamics. Constantly utilizing flittering bursts of double bass and militaristic snare hits, he can seamlessly shift to slower lumberjack like passages where the cymbals splash loudly. Complementing the drums with the bass guitar is Dr Vomit. Far from extraordinary, he more or less delivers a William Murderface like performance. Not really “there” per se but just present enough to make reasonable contributions.
Wrapping up the instrumentation is Dan Swano (Edge Of Sanity) and I must commend him for delivering a killer sound mixing. His maniacal knob turning captures all the aggression expected of a traditional death metal record at the expense of a mildly polished sheen. Featuring many standout tracks and impeccable songwriting “Gospel Of The Wretched is easily one of the most impressive melodic death metal records that I’ve heard in a long time and fans of mid period Amon Amarth, Dismember, Bolt Thrower, At The Gates, and Unleashed will eat this *** up unquestionably. Lay Down Rotten have officially surpassed their lightweight countrymen in Deadlock, Neaera, and Heaven Shall Burn in terms of quality and commanding power. This is real metal for real people looking for a real good time.