While they wouldn’t start releasing material until 2015, Philadelphia death metal band Percussor’s roots stretch back to 1996. Originally forming after the break-up of Afterbirth in 1995, Percussor only existed for two years before being resurrected in 2014 and founder Jack Carmichael has been seeming to make up for lost time ever since. Since 2015’s Proclamation of Hate the group has released new material every few years, with 2020’s Desperate to Expire EP bringing a new drummer and bassist into the fold. Two years later Percussor is back with their fourth album Ravenous Despondency, which the band has indicated will also by their last. Flying by at a quick half hour, Ravenous Despondency offers up an appropriately brutal old-school death metal attack while shaking things up a bit more than some of the group’s past material.
The first thing you’ll notice about Percussor’s latest effort is that they’ve gone for an appropriately old-school production and tone, with the drums coming through with that familiar crunch while the guitar and bass still have plenty of space to breathe. Like the recent Begrime Exemious album, while it may lack a sense of weight when it comes to the low end the almost live approach does suit what Percussor is going for and makes it sound like their material could’ve been ripped out of that mid-90s time period. Ravenous Despondency shakes up the band’s formula a bit more than in the past, moving between fast, blast heavy material and mid-tempo grooves with ease, while tracks like “Moldering Existence” inject some darker and twisted melodies into the mix that shake things up further. Stylistically it falls somewhere between the brute force and riff progression of earlier Deicide and Immolation, but when the group goes full speed they remind me of the savagery of Angelcorpse as well. It’s a mixture that works well, and when the band hits their stride on songs like “Ulterior Treachery” and “Perpetual Disdain” there’s plenty to keep death metal fans coming back for more. Admittedly even with the quick half-hour run-time there are some moments that drag, as “Narcissistic, Self Absorbed Disgrace” comes off as a bit overstretched and the last two tracks feel out of order. “Degradation” offers up a four-minute instrumental piece that allows the band to showcase a flurry of blasting and twisting and turning riffs that feels like a natural conclusion to the album, but it’s then followed up by the short track “Bottom Feeder” that abruptly ends at just before the two-minute mark. This does dampen the impact slightly, but even with that being the case the blend of brutality and darker melodies the rest of the material offered kept me coming back.
Jack Carmichael handles all the vocal work throughout Ravenous Despondency, and he has a raspier scream that towers above the instrumentals and adds quite a bit of grittiness to the album. Unlike a lot of death metal his approach uses clear enunciation, making it so you can actually make out a lot of the lyrics on the first listen through. Stylistically Carmichael has more in common with the thrashier side of death metal, as his pitch gives off more of a Possessed and Ares Kingdom vibe at points rather than the gutturals that defined a lot of other old-school oriented bands. There is a good amount of variation to the performance, and I especially like on tracks like opener “Systematic Savagery” when the screams are echoed and reverberate over the recording with an immense amount of power.
A few of the longer tracks overstay their welcome and the order of the last two songs feels like it could be flipped, but I’ve still gotten plenty of mileage out of Percussor’s latest effort. The rawer, almost live approach suits their more frantic and varied approach to death metal and the riffs shake things up pretty often, making for an album that captures a lot of the positives about the old-school variants of the genre. It doesn’t quite reach the same level as some of the best in the genre 2022 has had to offer, but it’s a strong way for Percussor to go out and given that Jack Carmichael and company clearly have death metal running through their veins I’m curious if they’ll resurface with another project in the near future. Ravenous Despondency is available from Horror Pain Gore Death Productions.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg