The Ominous Circle scar, warp death metal, bring fear back to genre on ‘Appalling Ascension’

Photo by João Fitas

Photo by João Fitas

I know it’s all clever for people to go around saying, “Let’s make Something Something Again,” based on U.S. embarrassment Donald Trump’s ever-so-creative campaign slogan. But what the hell. We’re feeling pretty lazy, so we’ve been hoping that a band would come along and make Death Metal Fearsome Again, and damn it if a strong candidate hasn’t reared its ugly head.

Mystery-shrouded Portuguese death metal band The Ominous Circle sound more than happy to take the sharp-ended baton and drive it mercilessly into the chest of every band trying to create a name for themselves in the death metal field. There is no desire here to sound pristine—none whatsoever—as they offer a complete bludgeoning on their massive debut record “Appalling Ascension.” Co-released by 20 Buck Spin and Osmose Productions, whose names guarantee quality, this shadowy sect pours acid and fire into their mix and comes out with death so ferocious, it will make pretenders and those weak at heart run and hide. Over these tumultuous eight tracks, the band grinds and punishes the listener, serving up sooty, basement-level carnage with gurgling vocals and a rhythm section that powders bones. Every step of this record is taking your life into your hands as you stare down danger and pray to anything you’ll survive to see the other side.

ominous-circle-coverThe record begins on an odd, troubling note with “Heart Gird With a Serpent,” a strange sprawl of a piece that has music beaten beyond recognition and growls working their way through the formless chaos. “From Endless Chasms” follows, with twisted guitar lines wrapping around you like a tourniquet and molten death splashing and maiming. The ferocity is pile-driving at times, with lead guitar work flashing and wailing and crazed runs coming right at you. Grisly growls and panicked shrieks intertwine, while the guitars sting on their way out. “Poison Fumes” sounds like just that, as it trudges forward and makes it feel like foreign agents are invading your blood. Gang howls arrive at one point, sounding formidable and scary, while a crushing, hypnotic pace pummels. Soloing goes off at the end, with the music cutting back and making it feel like you’re in a vortex. “Atec-Gibor Le-Olam Adonai” (a Kabbalistic acronym that stands for “You, O Lord, Are Mighty Forever,” is a humid, weird instrumental cut built on noise clouds hanging in the air and dark sounds haunting.

“A Gray Outcast” picks up the throttling all over again, but in a much different manner. Here, the band slides into Sabbath-style doom crawl, remaining as heavy as ever but delivering the pain in a more calculated manner. As things go on, guitars shriek and then the cut leaps into hyper drive, as the band delivers total annihilation. After that manic stretch, they’re back to miserable pounding and guitars jolting you with heat beams. “to En” greets you with drums lacerating your flesh and the tempo sickening you inside and out. The leads pull ahead and light up the room, at least momentarily, and the playing easily could stymie you and have you gripping the walls for balance. Guitars tear open and bring the cut to an abrupt end. “As the Worm Descends” fades in and brings with it a cloud of horror. The guitars grind away as if trying to juice you for blood, while a deliberate and thrashy assault breaks out and deals the blows, adding insult to your crusting wounds. All the elements later smash together and cause confusion, while the soloing blinds and has a blurry finish. Mammoth closer “Consecrating His Mark” is an absolute beast over its run time, making no bones about how it extends its assault and makes you gasp for breath. Guitars spit fire while the tempo mangles, and there are bends into slower playing and neck-jerk turns back to speed. As the song reaches its end, the guitars boil and wilt your skin, hulking growling instills fear, and the track comes to a fiery end that could engulf an entire forest.

It sounds odd to say The Ominous Circle breathe new life into death metal, as all they carry with them is pestilence on “Appalling Ascension.” This unit will carve you up, remove your bones, and drive over them with a cement truck. On top of all the heaviness is that eerie premonition that safety is nowhere to be found and that the most ghoulish of spirits are here to pick up your maimed carcass and ensure you are properly terrified well into oblivion.

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