by Anthony Abboreno

Slugathor's Echoes from Beneath (Drakkar, 2009) is death metal you glimpse in darkness. Grinding riffs coalesce, pummel you, then vanish into the murk. Seasick guitar leads writhe. The main vocals gurgle in a fleshy lower register, but are often doubled by a phantasmal scream. This is my favorite way for death metal to sound: possessed with occult life.

It's easy to draw comparisons to other bands. Slugathor cite as an influence Bolt Thrower, who are audible in the album's mid-tempo chugs. Incantation, Autopsy, and Demigod (Fin) also get namechecked. Those make sense, too, though none of them hit the mark. Slugathor fit into the pantheon of lurching death, but they never seem stitched together from corpses. Instead, they are death metal born of death metal. Listen to how riffs saw back and forth in "The Smoke." The guitars burrow under your skin, glom onto your spine, and drive you into a frenzy. When the chugging slows and the lead guitar's hollow moan confronts you, you feel it in the pit of your stomach. Even violence is more comfortable than this uneasy stasis. The contrast between gloom and crunch is familiar, but the subtleties of the narrative are new. It evokes other albums, but it's well-considered and effective on its own.

Slugathor's Myspace proclaims, "We are following the steps of our ancestors, do not use the term 'Old School' because it doesn't tell you anything about our music anyway. We ARE Death Metal thats all you need to know." I'm sympathetic to their frustration. Old-school, to me, suggests naïveté: kids wearing shirts for TV shows they never watched. A lot of death metal made now isn't conspicuously innovative. While some of it undoubtedly is "old-school," other bands — Dead Congregation (with whom Slugathor briefly toured) being one example — have a thoughtfulness that makes the OSDM tag disgraceful. I happily place Slugathor in this category.