Originally released on cassette via Headsplit Records in November of last year, Crematory Stench’s second EP Grotesque Deformities is now getting re-released on other formats courtesy of Blood Harvest and Helter Skelter Productions. Formed back in 2014 as a trio, the band has since expanded to a four piece and continues to write death metal that channels influence from everything old-school without falling too closely towards one style. With an even murkier and haunting atmosphere than before to go alongside the bludgeoning and thrashing songwriting showcased on their debut, Crematory Stench touches upon what has made death metal so captivating for decades.
Rather than jumping right into the bludgeoning riffing, Grotesque Deformities instead starts off with an ominous interlude that gives off a very creepy and tense atmosphere, as if you’ve wandered off into a mausoleum in the middle of the night and are surrounded by sounds of unknown origins. Interlude and intro tracks have always been fairly hit or miss on death metal records, but here it works to the band’s advantage as it draws you into the same type of grimy, unsettling atmosphere that the songwriting provides even after the intensity has kicked up significantly. The five tracks that make up Grotesque Deformities outside of the interlude can give listeners a little bit of everything, whether it’s the mid-tempo lurch and bludgeoning tonality of “Septic Offal” or the raging thrashier riffing of the title song. Even with this amount of variation Crematory Stench has the writing skills to back it up, as the riffs consistently pull you in and keep you wanting to come back for more. While they channel a lot of different influences (and it would be easy to namedrop plenty that come to mind), it never feels like the group is touching too closely on any particular one and are pushing off towards their own mold.
The vocals throughout Grotesque Deformities do the title of the EP justice, as they have that type of tortured and horrifying pitch that grabs your attention immediately. Crematory Stench’s singer is able to hit ranges that are reminiscent of Martin van Drunen on a number of occasions, and it’s wrapped in the right amount of echo to come through in a truly ghastly manner. Though the screams stay at around the same general level for much of the EP, there’s enough nuance to the performance to keep it from feeling one-dimensional, and the approach is well suited to the overall sound the group is going for.
There’s more death metal than ever vying for your attention, but Crematory Stench is one of the newer bands able to make a strong impression. The songwriting balances that familiar murky tone with the right amount of haunting atmosphere, and while there’s still plenty of room for these guys to grow I can’t deny that they’ve hit the spot when it comes on how to channel the old-school vibe. Fans of everything from classic Bay Area to Swedish death metal will find plenty to dig into here, and it’ll be exciting to watch where the group goes next. Grotesque Deformities is available from Blood Harvest, Helter Skelter Productions, andHeadsplit Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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