Thursday, 8 October 2015

A Wretched Prayer

Band: Serum Dreg
Release: 'Impure Blood' demo (2015)

It is difficult to understand those who put forward lamentations concerning the state of black and death metal. As genres (and movements, more importantly) their most indubitable recesses are perpetually bubbling, a cauldron nought but foul and always overflowing, spilling here and there splashes of vile concoction.

Serum Dreg's 2015 demo, 'Impure Blood', is the second release granted agonising life by Vrasubatlat, a purposeful conspiracy of like minds, communicating ancient visions of primal irreverence via black metal, death metal and noise releases.

This bold four-track demo recalls the genres' most seminal releases, those that emerged at a time when the jagged line between black and death metal was far more blurred and both genres promoted and followed a single-minded focus. As a side project of Ash Borer members, who also fill roles in other Vrasubatlat-backed acts, UĆĄkumgallu and Triumvir Foul, 'Impure Blood' is an erudite treatment of black/death metal as a vessel of extolment.

Akin to a recently discovered, dust-caked mix tape from the early 90s, Serum Dreg channel the energy of early Darkthrone, granting listeners an insight into what may have occupied that gap between 'Soulside Journey' and 'A Blaze in the Northern Sky'. Certain riffs and song structures possess a definite Darkthrone-esque gallop that's interwoven with acknowledgements of contemporary acts like Clandestine Blaze, as well as moments of a black 'n' roll sensibility. More thrashy elements even allow the odd nod to early Slayer.

The demo's faster (and most recommended) passages are bass-heavy, confessing similarities to frenzied black/death juggernauts Teitanblood, though Serum Dreg are less obstinately leaden and claustrophobic. A knowledgeable use of tempo variation and song length keeps proceedings fresh while the utterly apt vocal performance furnishes echoed howls and bellows of anguish and anger that float menacingly above the sepulchral orchestra at work.

Giving the overall impression of a recorded rehearsal session, 'Impure Blood' is an offering of immediate and unnervingly impassioned black/death metal, free of embellishment and nonsense. As a statement of intent from both Serum Dreg and Vrasubatlat, it is explicit, staunch and a reminder of black and death metal's shared, inherent otherworldly endowments.

Rating: 80%

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