Hailing from Sweden via Iceland, UNDER THE CHURCH have had a busy year. In February, the quintet released the cassette-only live album Horrors From The Tomb, August saw a split 7” release with Germany’s fantastic REVEL IN FLESH and now the band are set to unleash their brilliant sophomore album, Supernatural Punishment, upon the world.
Starting in 2012 from the ashes of old-school cult favourites NIRVANA 2002, UNDER THE CHURCH features Erik Qvick (drums) and Lars Henriksson (bass) of the aforementioned Swedish underground phenomena, and a sound not dissimilar from Sweden’s big names in death metal. Following from 2015’s Rabid Armageddon, Supernatural Punishment is a bit more stripped back with shorter, punchier song writing, and a little less focus on atmosphere.
There are immediate buzzwords that come to mind when describing Supernatural Punishment. Cold. Filthy. Raw. There is nothing pretty about this album, and nor should there be – though it is being released in 2017, this is an old-school death metal album, complete with all the horror-influenced lyrics, frosty production and evil riff work.
Opening with an immediate fan-favourite, UNDER THE CHURCH kick off their second full-length with The Stygian Horror. Pulling no punches, the quintet immediately dive into fast, punky riffs and unrelenting drum work that slows only for a brief and unnaturally catchy chorus, and a bluesy solo that should feel out-of-place, but somehow fits perfectly. Two of Supernatural Punishment’s finest moments follow shortly after, with Ancient Ritual and Staircase To Hell showcasing a selection of the record’s strongest riffs and hookiest leads. Ancient Ritual features an enticing intro, a brilliant solo and persistent galloping groove throughout that in particular stick in the listener’s mind, while Staircase To Hell offers a more savage, GRAVE-esque death metal sound complete with a short but memorable chorus.
Supernatural Punishment ends on a high note with a one-two punch of excellence in the forms of Wretched Disfigurement and Silence of the Shadows. The longest track on the album, Wretched Disfigurement offers a departure from the up-tempo, punk-influenced vibe most of Supernatural Punishment seems to follow. Far more groove orientated, Wretched Disfigurement is utterly punishing with its crushing riffs, and while it is by no means a slow track, the lack of urgency here offers the listener a chance to fully digest the brilliance on display from the first listen. Silence of the Shadows continues this slowed down, cold brutality taking the album to an utterly massive close.
Utterly devoid of filler, Supernatural Punishment is a visceral throwback to the days of Like An Everflowing Stream, Into The Grave and Left Hand Path. The influence taken from DISMEMBER, GRAVE and early ENTOMBED is crystal clear from even a cursory listen, though given the heritage of the rhythm section this is hardly surprising. Short and savage, Supernatural Punishment is set to be a late end-of-year favourite for any death metal fan, particularly those of the Swedish variety.
Supernatural Punishment is out now via Pulverised Records.
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