Filthy and murky death metal never gets old whether it’s from classic bands or newer acts, and Canadian duo Altered Dead has been offering their take on the style since 2013. Five years after their self-titled debut they’ve returned with Returned to Life, which takes equal amounts of influence from Swedish and American death metal and injects some punk, doom, and filth into the mixture. Although the sound is familiar, the compact nature of the album ensures that little time is wasted and the riffs have plenty of substance to draw in listeners.
“Mental Suicide” proves to be the perfect introduction to Returned to Life as it showcases almost every element of the band in one song. You get an ominous piano intro that leads into grimy guitar work that lurches forward at a slower speed for a little while until Altered Dead transitions over to blasting and some punk-tinged riffs. There’s a lot of Autopsy to their approach with some Swedish acts like Grave blended in for good measure, and the tonality consistently draws you in with just the right amount of murkiness and weight. It’s the type of death metal that is happy to drown you in raw sewage and pummel your corpse into the ground, and it has that raw and noisier edge that drew me to bands like the sadly disbanded Bonesaw. But this isn’t a mere case of style over substance either where Altered Dead has gotten that old-school sound down and then called it a day, as there’s quite a bit of variety to the performance and the songwriting has some substance behind it. Sometimes this comes in the form of more grind leaning sections, while “Empostomb” briefly heads into death/doom territory. The immense weight and power emanating from Returned to Life also brings Bolt Thrower to mind quite a bit, and there’s plenty here to please death metal fans of all types. Altered Dead has chosen things to keep things compact at thirty-four minutes in length and the songs span around two to four minutes in length, giving them plenty of time to bludgeon and zombie lurch in equal capacity without feeling too drawn out. Admittedly I wouldn’t mind room for a few solos or even more death/doom with this tonality, but what Altered Dead has to offer throughout their sophomore effort is consistently fun and crushing to blare at the highest volumes.
It wouldn’t be Autopsy influenced death metal without absolutely disgusting and distorted vocals, and that’s on full display throughout Returned to Life. The main pitch is a raspier scream but there are some dips into lower growls, gurgles, and the type of pitch shifted vocals that bring just a hint of goregrind to mind. This proves to be just as appealing as the instrumentation thanks to just how intense and unhinged the vocals often sound, and even though they do blend into the mix at times the most distorted pitches have a tendency to break through the filth and grab your attention. Although the approach is sure to bring a slew of other bands to mind, when it’s done this well that’s hardly an issue.
Altered Dead has left themselves with some room to grow, but it’s clear the five-year incubation period has been well-spent as their sophomore effort delivers some of the filthier and genuinely crushing death metal around. The brevity works in their favor and with their injection of some punk, grind, and doom at key moments this album stands above some of the more recent death metal releases that the major labels have been pushing. With each full length this duo has only gotten better, and if you have yet to experience their material this is a great starting point. Returned to Life is available from Memento Mori Records and Fucking Kill Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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