Death metal veterans Echelon bring war-scorched chaos on ‘The Brimstone Aggrandizement’

echelonSometimes if you want something done right, you have to go to the experts. We’ve heard the kids piddling around with death metal, and truth be told, many of them are pretty damn good at it. But you want something war-torn, bloodied, and true, it never hurts to gather together a group of well-traveled veterans to let them have their way with the stuff.

That takes us to international superpower Echelon and their clobbering second record “The Brimstone Aggrandizement.” OK, look, it’s a mouthful to say. We’ll admit it right off the bat. But beyond that you uncover death metal the way it was meant to made, that being right off the battlefield with body parts still burning and the blood flowing fresh. In this unit, we find a slew of hardened dudes who have been around and seen some shit making this thunderous eight-track record, the follow-up to last year’s word soupy “Indulgence Over Abstinence Behind the Obsidian Veil,” itself a fucking crusher. This lineup, and get ready for this, consisting of vocalist Dave Ingram (current Hail of Bullets frontman, who also headed Benediction and Bolt Thrower), guitarists Kjetl Lynghaug (Mordenial, Paganizer) and Rogga Johansson (Down Among the Dead Men, Johansson & Speckmann, his duo with Master vocalist Paul Speckmann, and formerly of Soulburn, Foreboding, Bloodgut, and like a zillion other bands), bassist Johan Berglund (Demiurg, The Grotesquery), and drummer Travis Ruvo (Among the Decayed, Cropsy Maniac, Wormfood) has insane resumes, in case the past 90 lines were unclear, and bring all of their violence and power to this killer band.

echelon-cover“Plague of the Altruistic” kicks off the record heavily, and from the title alone, you should not expect anywhere to run and hide. The track is instant death, as Ingram unleashes his growls, and furious leads cut through the track. The bass bubbles, as Ingram wails about “a sacrifice to your unforgiving god,” feeling punishing and threatening all at once. “The Forbidden Industry” has a tempered start before it rips open. The chorus is a mauler that’ll stick with you, while weird robotic speaking strikes near the end, and the cut comes to a destructive finish. “Lex Talionis” starts with Ingram howling, “Let the punishment fit the crime!” before a thrashy assault starts, further growls gurgle, and the soloing scorches. The back end has a classic death metal flavor, finishing with Ingram vowing “a tooth for a tooth.” “Of Warlocks and Wolves” has hounds snarling and an Amon Amarth-style approach, striking a nice balance between melodic and murderous. The playing is strong and channeled, with the guitars ruling and a nice dose of crunch landing.

The title cut has a flurry of guitars, as the lead work surges, and a fast, crushing pace begins breaking bones. “Weld the power of autonomy!” Ingram howls, delivering his battle cry to rally the troops, and the song keeps punching on all cylinders before it races toward the finish line. “Vital Existence” greets you with strange voices before the song erupts and heads your way. A grindy, fiery tempo brings pain, while creaky growls and all guns blazing come to an abrupt, breath-robbing end. “The Feared Religion” heads down the left-hand path, with thrashy playing and things heading toward the fires. The soloing spirals out of control, dragging you on an unpredictable trip, while the band stands tall, chugging and giving off chest-caving smoke. Closer “Monsters in the Gene Pool/Sonic Vortex” starts with a Vincent Price cackle and the song taking a different road than the ones before. The pace is more rock-oriented, though Ingram howls like a beast, and the guitars are allowed to smear and show off a little more here. About halfway through, the song fades out, and in its place are whimsical sounds and dialog clips that bring this to a really strange conclusion.

There’s no doubting Echelon’s heart and bloodied hands on “The Brimstone Aggrandizement,” as they’ve been there, conquered, and still are telling their filthy war tales. This record is a punishing, yet fun reminder of death metal’s hungry early days when fires were freshly burning, and a whole new world was out there to discover. The history has been written, the scars have hardened, but we’re lucky to still have veteran musicians such as the ones from Echelon to remind us of what death metal means in the first place.

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