Last year, I made a trip to Baltimore specifically to see Bolt Thrower. I mean, how could I not? They’re one of the greatest metal bands of all time, and anyone who feels the same way I do about them is a friend of mine. Or, any band that pays homage to them, even by chance, is someone to whom I’ll pay undivided attention.
That’s not to suggest Unwilling Flesh is a Bolt Thrower tribute act or something. No way. Instead, the act takes the same path that band did on awesome debut “Between the Living and the Dead,” and they also have elements of old-school death metal units such as Carnage, Eucharist, and Benediction, and they do so with an earnest and totally violent way that it’s impossible not to be utterly pumped by their music. I’ve visited with this record a number of times, as I do with every release we feature here on the site, and each time it infects me with its energy, passion, and devastation. Its classic death metal flavor hits the spot every fucking time.
This band–I say band because it’s a full-bodied experience—is the effort of multi-instrumentalist Andrew D’Cagna (who also plays in killer groups including Obsequiae, Nechochwen, Infirmary, and Brimstone Coven), who also gets an assist from Aaron Carey (also of Nechochwen and Infirmary) on lead guitars. So maybe it’s not a huge collective effort, per se, but it sounds huge and involved. I imagine five or six dudes on a stage dominating and getting people throwing fists in the air, and even though that may not be the case with this record, it’s huge enough that you might think it’ the case. It’s a fun, boisterous album, and it fills me with metallic glee. It also makes me happy I can indulge in a true death metal record that aligns perfectly with my feelings about how this stuff should sound.
“Fathoms Unfound” is a fine opener and one that truly sets the pace for the record. Out of ugly, grimy muck come gurgly vocals full of death and a hammering pace that’s out to deface you. The riffs are awesome, some synth slips behind to tilt toward eeriness, and D’Cagna howls, “There is no light!” with a force designed to make you a believer. “Vanquished Daylight” opens with a quote from the film “Legend” only to be followed by a scathing assault, a killer pace, and awesome melodies that paint the thing with glory and power. “Bathed in Desolation” sounds like it was dreamt up after hours of Bolt Thrower worship, and it’s a real smasher, with great, chugging riffs, filthy bass work, and more devastating vocals. “Nightmare Inception” pulls back a bit on the speed but not the heaviness, as the tempo is calculated but massive, the growls sound scraped from hell’s basement, and the soloing burns brightly over top the whole thing. “At One With the Earth” chews up everything in front of it, with burly riffs, monstrous vocals, and great melodies that help balance the catchiness and brutality.
“Morning Star Disciples” is another crusher, and it even brings with it hints of Second Wave black metal just for good measure. It’s a fiery piece that gallops hard and leaves no window for any mercy. “On the Wings of Hate” is a little chunkier, as it thrashes forcefully forward, grinding hard in the mud. The vocals are damn-near demonic, and it feels like you’re sitting and burning alive in a furnace. “Vaults of Eternity” revisits the thrash strains, with a bizarre whispery part chilling your flesh and total grimness taking over. As is the case with most of the songs on the record, the soloing is razor sharp and bubbles over like lava. Closer “Secrets of the Dead” is a fantastic finisher, a sort of summation of everything you’ve heard to this point, with charnel vocals bringing menace, great lead guitar work, and total punishment leaving bruises you won’t mind having all over your body the next day.
Sometimes being a reviewer makes you forget enjoying metal for pure enjoyment. It comes with the job. But Unwilling Flesh is the type of band that forces you to remember to smile sometimes. This is an energetic, really fun project, and “Between the Living and the Dead” never ceases to fill my heart with cataclysmic glee and remind me why I love metal in the first place and have for all these years.
To buy the album, go here: http://eihwazrecordings.com/distro/
For more on the label go here: http://eihwazrecordings.com/