September 18, 2012 | , | 4.5

Usurpress, Trenches of the Netherworld

Usurpress: Trenches of the Netherworld

So, what should one expect from Daniel Ekeroth, the man who wrote Swedish Death Metal, when he straps on his bass, recruits a few other miscreants — Stefan “Steffe” Pettersson (vokills), Calle Andersson (drummer) and Påhl (guitarist) — of the Swedish underground metal scene? One would think that you’d be force fed some true-to-form, authentic old school death metal, right? Well, sort of…

Ekeroth and crew, collectively known as Usurpress, certainly deliver some old school vileness, but not in the form I had expected. What we have here in the eleven tracks of Trenches of the Netherworld, the band’s debut full-length, is some seriously crusty d-beat mayhem — ramrodded to the gills with buzzing guitars ala old school Swedish death metal. But, it’s a sound that doesn’t mimic the elder statesmen of Dismember or Entombed. The gnarly guitars absolutely buzz like rusty chainsaws, but they also carry a punk tinge that meshes with Andersson’s d-beat rhythms perfectly.

After a brief build-up of tepid guitars and martial drums, “Black Death on White Wings” erupts from the speakers like an avalanche of aggression, as the drums go ballistic, the riffs drive straight to your skull, the bass rumbles fillings and Pettersson’s guttural barks lay down the law. The sound of the song is thick and viscous as it chugs along at a violent pace, letting loose with distant echos of Entombed or the like, but never fully embracing that sound, instead delivering a sound wholly their own. “Effegies Burns Across the Wasteland” has a cold chill to the guitars as the move along at a moderate pace initially before the guys get into the meat of the burly song. I love the distance that Pettersson’s growls seem to have within the mix. They fit nicely into the churning riffs and barbaric drums.

“Coronation of the Crippled King” features some cleanly presented vocal work, though it’s more as a backing or choral effect as the main delivery of the lyrics is still the guttural growls, but the variation in vocal delivery is a nice touch. While “The Wooden Sceptre” is firmly rooted in d-beat, “The Colours of Darkness” gets a little nutty with the tempo shifts and makes sure you aren’t getting too comfortable with what Usurpress are slinging. The title track has some slowly moving doom influences seeping into the guitars and the excellent “The God Eaters” and “Dethroned by Shadows” deliver pretty straightforward death metal.

Even though Usurpress’ core sound relies heavily on d-beat, punk and hardcore, they do a great job not getting sucked into a templated rut. Each song on Trenches of the Netherworld is unique in their own right with elements of the band’s core, death metal and even a little melody thrown in for good measure to make sure you’re really paying attention. This is easily one of the better albums I’ve heard this year which is more than enough of a reason for it to be monopolizing my meager stereo for the past couple of weeks.