Review Summary: A dark, disturbing and flat-out brilliant debut.
Reviewing metal albums is a joy, but oftentimes somewhat frustrating. After all, there are only so many ways one can call a band “heavy”, “crushing”, or “brutal“ – metal has always been about extremes, but hyperbole has rendered many of these terms meaningless within the world of this funny little genre. However, every so often there comes a band that really feels like they earn those descriptors, and then some. Anyone can buy a Line 6 amp, tune to drop A and chug out some “heavy” riffs. It takes a special kind of artistic irresponsibility to produce something truly crushing, brutal, and heavy, even within a genre where such sonic characteristics are mere prerequisites.
The English 5 piece known as Dragged into Sunlight takes this quest for extremity in metal music more seriously (and convincingly) than I’ve ever seen in a metal band in recent memory with their monster of a debut LP, “Hatred of Mankind”. Even the band’s presentation, totally removed from the music itself, adheres to this aesthetic – during live shows the band plays with their backs to the audience in total darkness (save some strobelights), the band members don’t release their real names, and they address interviewers without a lick of humor or irony about what they do. Even their official band page sports an ominous download link, a press package which features a jpeg image of a rotted corpse and an absolutely horrific music video set to E. Elias Merhige’s monstrosity of a film, Begotten.
But of course, all of this focus on presentation would be simple posturing if the music itself wasn’t so damned good. Sonically DIS falls somewhere within the realm of sludge and death metal with something of a black metal visual aesthetic (and maybe a sprinkling of Whitehouse styled noise). The production is absolutely jacked into the red – the septic guitar tone sounds like the Sunlight Studios ‘buzzsaw’ tone (popularized by Entombed, Dismember, etc) ran through a vat of battery acid, and when coupled with the excessive wash of ride cymbal noise you’re left to wonder whether that’s really distortion you’re hearing, or just the sound of your collapsing eardrums. Far from modern metal’s unfortunate propensity for unnecessary polishing, the band sounds like they’re tearing it up right in front of you. The performance itself is similarly unhinged – it’s loose, grimy and alive. They play with such reckless energy and enthusiasm that it’s impossible not to feed off it with a grimaced face and a banging head.
Opening number and brilliant statement of purpose “Boiled Angel/Buried With Leeches” absolutely kills it right off the bat, offering an 11 minute cocktail of crawling open-chord sludge grooves, amped up death metal blasting and violently harsh noise, as well as potently featuring the band’s secret weapon – the vocalist, simply named T. Less a standard extreme metal vocalist, he comes off more like an enraged howler monkey amped on speed and set on fire. If that sounds hyperbolic, look no further than the aforementioned opening song. He howls, heaves, spits and screams in an insanely cathartic performance that must be heard to be believed. Other standouts include 3-minute scorcher “To Hieron” and “I, Aurora”, which features a deliciously catchy main riff straight from the Dismember school of barn burning death metal mastery. Layered over the music are various samples of interviews with serial killers, effectively contributing a chillingly psychotic atmosphere (and exemplifying the misanthropic attitude presented by the album title). It’s all marvelously executed, and makes for the most exciting debut from an extreme metal band in recent memory.