Dallas death squad Cleric add weird cosmic dashes to muddy devastation on ‘Serpent Psalms’

Photo by Kathleen Kennedy

The cosmos and death metal have become strange bedfellows over the past few years. It wouldn’t seem like they’d make sense together on the surface but adding those weird dashes of synth along with pulverizing chaos and wooshes from beyond really work well if you know how to mix those parts. And get ready for a giant wave of new bands that totally can’t.

Continuing that movement with great power are Dallas death pounders Cleric on their second record “Serpent Psalms” that arrives six years after their debut offering “Gratum Inferno. It’s not that the band is digging full bore into alien conspiracy and intergalactic tales (um, that record comes later this year), but their sound very much falls in line with that style. They splash their Scandinavian-friendly sound with strange pockets of synthesizer that makes it seem like a you’re locked in a B-movie alien invasion in which the only way to survive is battle to the end. The band—vocalist Zac Christian, guitarists Chris Richardson and Ben Cooper (he replaced Cody Tatum after the recording), bassist Todd Thompson (he replaced John Schiller after the recording), drummer Zack Jobin—continues their raw, savage sound on this record that is devastating front to back.

“Maw of Absolution” begins with a cloud of synth and the cosmos bubbling before the track is shredded open, and the death march is on. The track is bludgeoning and bloody as riffs chew up muscle, the growls smear, and the drums bring devastation that eventually sinks into the muck. “Lucifer Triumphant” has muddy riffs and beastly growls with the leads sizzling in doom. The track then melts to a slow drive with the growls crushing and the pace defacing whatever is in front of them. “Of Twilight and of the Grave” has weird 1980s keys sickening brains before the piledriver is delivered. The track sinks in mud as the playing hammers away with the drums opening up slaughter and strong soloing blaring. The growls deal further blows, scraping away before the spaceship returns and summons the body. “Possessed in Congress” is not seemingly directed at the current political scene but might as well be. Chants bring in the song before things get fast and punishing with total violence leading the way. The track smears blood into the wounds before some final barks cement the weird finish.

“Unending Spectral Bloodshed” has riffs swaggering, the growls gurgling, and the guitars hovering over the killing field. The track breaks apart and sprays shrapnel, while strange guitars make flesh quiver, wild yells belt out, and the leads heat up and drive us into hell. “All Death Unseeing” has doomy riffs entangling while the tempo lurches, and then the song tears open. The band begins landing heavy body blows, as the song smashes bones, the growls turn to stabbed yelps, and the track ends in a furnace fire gone astray. “Satan Be Thy Name” is speedy and rowdy, bashing in heads and rolling in the aftermath. The track is thrashy as hell and has an easy chorus that will work well live, rolling around in chaos as the song bows out. “Forever Coils the Serpent (Opener of the Way)” delivers speedy riffs and some disarming melody, going more the black metal route before heading into muscular mashing. Guitars light up as the soloing scorches before everything dissolves into a gooey patch. “Destroying Eye of the Self” begins with a blanket of synth before meaty riffs rumble, and grim calls blister your chest with shots. The drumming then murders before soloing erupts, and then things turn murky and weird. A terrifying trance is achieved as growls return to destroy, and everything ends in utter brutality.

Cleric’s smashing approach to death metal is satisfying and gruff, and the extra cosmic seasonings they sprinkle onto their grim stew on “Serpent Psalms” can cause shivers along with the bruising. They’re also just making really good death metal, if we want to state this on the most simplistic of levels, and that’s really the reason to visit this record in the first place. It’s good to have this band after the long time away, and they’re entering back into a morbid world in which they’re more than equipped to survive.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/clericdeathmetal/

To buy the album, go here: https://cleric-us.bandcamp.com/

Or here: https://rawskullrecordz.com/en/cds/419-cleric-serpent-psalms-cd-pre-order.html

For more on the label, go here: https://rawskullrecordz.com/en/

And here: http://www.redefiningdarkness.com/