Apparently, Banisher has something of a storied history over the last decade or so, with guitarist/main man/default Nord Hubert Więcek being hailed as an up and coming superstar in the Polish death metal scene at the time. That’s no small feat in a regional scene that features powerhouses like Vader, Behemoth and Decapitated, along with less-huge-but-still-great acts like Lost Soul and Hate. Judging by the few reviews I skimmed before diving in here, they were one of those bands capitalizing on the popular hypothetical of “What if Decapitated never streamlined and kept making albums like Winds of Creation?”, and that sounds rad. However, ol’ Hubey actually plays bass in Decapitated nowadays. If the critical assessments of Banisher’s previous releases are accurate, then I’d wage that influence is rubbing off on his first band here.
As you all should know though, “simple” doesn’t mean “worse,” and I think newer Decapitated is solid, if an obvious step down from their legendary debut, and Degrees of Isolation here is no different. This is hammering, furious death metal with a tinge of technical flair, but it manifests in a way much closer to Anata than Decrepit Birth. This is all about the riffs and intensity, and any fretboard wizardry is showcased entirely via the riffs themselves instead of crazy solos or blazing melodies. This is, incidentally, the perfect way to present this record, because I don’t think any amount of blistering leadwork would’ve improved this, as it’s basically perfect already. Every single moment in jam-the-fuck-packed with riffs and blasts formulated specifically to pulverize your spine. Anything else would’ve distracted or disoriented.
The rhythmic focus of the music results in some downright infectious moments that have kept this in pretty consistent rotation for me. Album closer, “Echoes,” opens with a damn near Pantera inspired groove before finding every possible rhythmic combination of notes to play the riff, resulting in something that strikes a maddening balance between unpredictable and mosh worthy. Some of the more straightforward melodic death metal cuts like “Apotheosis” and “Devil in ISO-5” are simply obliterating in their kinetic energy, slowing down only long enough to blink before picking back up and Hundred Hand Slapping you with powerful blasts and destructive riffing. There are obviously some actual dynamics here, with the band turning the tempo down for a few moments and letting a discordant harmony sweep over you in tracks like “Lockdown” and “Echoes,” but they only last as long as it takes you to realize you can breathe again.
This is an interesting case when it comes to scoring because there isn’t anything about Banisher that stands out as extraordinary. And I have serious doubts about this being good enough to crack my Top Whatever at the end of the year, but at the same time, I really can’t think of a single thing to improve it. It does what it does extremely well, and what it does is take catchy melodic death metal and spray it at out you out of a firehouse. When this is on, it’s exactly what I want to hear. So take the high score and get out of here, you dicks.
Degrees of Isolation will be released on February 29th, 2020, via Selfmadegod Records. I have no preorder links this time because, just like in the bedroom, I finished too early and nothing is available yet. So take my word for it, it’s awesome, and you should get it when it’s available.