Death metal can be a difficult genre to take on musically; There are endless possibilities for innovation and experimentation, and yet many bands can’t seem to avoid the pitfall of sounding generic and uninspired. This especially applies to bands that are still early in their careers. Lucky for the Italian metal scene, while Ekpyrosis’ debut album Asphyxiating Devotion may contain some easily identifiable influences, the end result is a release that proves to be hard-hitting and captivating enough to escape the common fate of a generic record.
Ekpyrosis is an Italian death metal group that formed in 2013 and has since honed it’s sound by means of two demos and an EP. Their first full-length, Asphyxiating Devotion, features a very satisfying and well handled marriage of the classic Swedish death metal sound and the old school US style of death metal, with some slow and borderline doomy sections to boot. My favorite part of this album, however, would have to be how they fit these influences into the record. The variety between songs is noticeable and very much appreciated – songs like “Blasphemous Doom” and “God Grotesque” take a comparatively slower approach, while tracks like “Morticians of God” deliver riffs at the relentless speeds often associated with traditional death metal. Diversity like this allows the emphasis to organically shift from instrument to instrument, and gives every member a chance to shine (for example, “Incarnation of Morbidity” is where the drumming struck me the most). No matter which of the nine tracks you’re listening to, there’s some element there to hold your attention, and the ever present underlying aggression will constantly drive the music forward.
The lyrics on this album can get pretty technical, which caught me off guard at first – but I suppose that’s to be expected from a band named after the philosophical concept of a universe endlessly dying and being recreated back into itself. I can appreciate all of the thought put into the lyrics (and the fact that the lyrics were available on Bandcamp, a feature that I wish more bands used), but I would’ve liked if their vocalist would enunciate better. He’s not untalented by any means – there are points on the album where I felt like I needed a shower after just listening to his gut-wrenching growls. Yet, it seems like a waste to let the narrative of the song be so easily ignored. A vocalist that’s difficult to comprehend certainly isn’t a problem exclusive to Ekpyrosis, and in many cases, it’s not a problem at all. Nevertheless, the fact that some serious detail was put into the words and little effort was made to convey them clearly to the listener stands as my biggest gripe.
At the end of the day, these Italians set out to make “intense and aggressive low-end death metal” and that goal was met before the first track even ended. Aside from a few minor shortcomings, a blend of various influences and more than capable musical ability makes this a solid debut and a promising look to the future.
Asphyxiating Devotion is out now on the label Memento Mori.