Vanhelgd deliver devastating dose of doom-smeared death with gory ‘Deimos Sanktuarium’

Right now, as I write this, a storm is brewing. My TV reception keeps going out because my dish is getting confused, and at any moment, the power is sure to get zapped, leaving me with the glow of a laptop before that, too, expires. It feels like Armageddon, which is weird in this part of the country in October, but shit’s changing, and the environment is striking back.

This also is the ideal time to dig into some murky, doomy death metal, the kind that Swedish ghouls Vanhelgd have made so well ever since their 2008 debut “Cult of Lazarus.” Here we are, a decade later, and the band is back with “Deimos Sanktuarium,” their fifth helping of fiery terror and one that adds a gigantic building block to the temple of madness they’ve been building. Over seven songs spread over 44 minutes, the band gets you in their grasp and grinds away at you. Their brand of death isn’t slick and polished. Instead, it shows its guts and spills its own blood, letting it grow sticky gross, just like their music. The band—guitarists/vocalists Jimmy Johansson and Matthias Frisk, bassist Jonas Albrektsson, and drummer Matthias Westman—continues to make their sound uglier as they go on, and this record is as foul and smothering as anything they’ve released.

“A Plea for Divine Necromancy” greets you as a blast of grinding death, with horrifying growls, vicious playing, and you immersed in absolute chaos. The guitars roll over you, while the pace mangles, and it all ends in a driving show of force. “Så förgås världens härlighet” has nasty growls and riffs pummeling, as the band creates a thick, foreboding smoke that aims to strangle you. The track later takes on a barbaric feel, as melody and savagery tangle for supremacy before wild howls and a tornadic burst takes the song out. “Vi föddes i samma grav” unleashes creepy pastoral chants before the song blows up, and raspy, deadly growls are emitted. The song boils and sends off steam, while a mesmerizing pace captures your mind before driving it mercilessly into the ground.

“Profaned Is the Blood of the Covenant” chills at first as bells chime, creating a mystical haze that is ripped to pieces by devastating chugging. The howl of, “A martyr designed as a god,” leaves welts on your face as the band digs deeper, with ominous tones and a shout of, “A stillborn raised by the wolves!” The song burns dangerously from there, ending quietly in funereal chimes. “The Ashes of Our Defeat” is slow driving and doomy, as the howl of, “Swallow the stars, swallow the night,” arrives like a firm command. The track slowly burns, while the guitars are dizzy and intoxicating before slipping into sludgy violence and a ferocious end. “The Silent Observer” is an interesting one as the drums punch, the song fades in, and the band crushes methodically. Black metal-style melodies wash in, as horrifying group yells strike, guitars squirm and swirl, and death-defying shrieks peel your skin back before everything ends in a wash of hellish chants. “Här finns ingen nåd” hammers the final nail with wild screams, a delirious pace, and heavy riffs laying waste. More deadly growls and shrieks sound like demonic transmissions, while strange chants add an alien feel, the band blisters you, and everything drowns out into hell.

Five records in, and Vanhelgd continue to build vicious layers on top of their already bloody, decaying resume. “Deimos Sanktuarium” is a scathing, devastating record that’s par for the course for this band (that’s a good thing, by the way) and should scare the shit out their contemporaries to step up their games. Deep diving into another smothering pile of putrid death from this band might sound unpleasant to the uninhibited, but it’s exactly what those who dine at this band’s table are hungry to find.

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