Phoenix, AZ's Landmine Marathon isn't so much concerned with technical proficiency as dismay and disgust. Sovereign Descent (Prosthetic, 2010) captures a grim mood akin to the band's desert environs. I can imagine being lost in the sun-scorched terrain with cactuses mocking my quest for shade and water. The album succeeds in part due to its unrelenting, oppressive gloom.

Though Landmine Marathon routinely garner comparisons to the death/grind trinity of Bolt Thrower, Carcass, and Napalm Death, the band's hardcore roots add to its ferocity. Traces of former bands Unruh and Bury Me Standing seep through. Vocalist Grace Perry owes as much to death metal as to harsher '90s hardcore.

Sovereign Descent builds upon the band's previous albums. Nothing represents a radical departure; the band just plays it cleaner, meaner, and tighter. Nearly every song includes shifting tempos buoyed by underrated drummer Mike Pohlmeier. The guitarists construct memorable songs with a few simple riffs, keeping leads to a minimum. This economy of riffage allows the songs to flourish free of technical obfuscation. Wooly, bass-heavy production obviates some dynamics and clarity in favor of blunt force (akin to late '80s/early '90s death metal records). The album serves as a tribute to and a continuation of groundwork albums such as Realm of Chaos and Heartwork. Few American bands match the power of the godfathers of death and grind this confidently.

— Casey Boland

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