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The Republic of Tunisia isn't much of a presence on the global metal map. The country has a small but dedicated underground and its bands span a variety of genres. Brood Of Hatred hails from the capital city of Tunis and has been active since 2010, releasing the locally distributed "New Order Of Intelligence" EP prior to this full length debut outing. Of all the Tunisian bands that were able to get their music internationally released, Brood Of Hatred is by far the most professional. "Skinless Agony" is a monumental record that could've come from any of the genre's greats. Making it all even better is that Brood Of Hatred sounds nothing like you'd expect given their moniker. If nothing else, "Skinless Agony" could very well be the standard to which all Tunisian metal from this point forward is measured.

Ray Kurzweil’s theory of singularity posits that by 2045 artificial intelligence will surpass humanity in knowledge. It’s a fascinating theory that seemingly becomes more of a premonition as our reliance in technology increases every year. Tunisian death metal band Brood Of Hatred - who don’t take quite as much after Suffocation as much as their name would suggest - uses Kurzweil’s prediction as the conceptual basis for its debut. Slickly produced with stunning visuals, and with proper backing from its Norwegian label partner Crime Records AS, “Skinless Agony” might very well be the first and best African death metal record.

The creative force behind Brood Of Hatred is vocalist/bass guitarist Mohamed Mêlki. Having faced every possible setback and delay imagineable; from being unable to enlist properly trained musicians, locating a studio facility that could, and knew how to, handle the music, and the additional difficulty of not having a cultural support system to help promote such endeavors “Skinless Agony” is testament to the will of its founding member. Brood Of Hatred exudes the kind of professionalism that often takes bands many years to attain. “Skinless Agony” does not in the least reflect that Brood Of Hatred is a third world act. It could very well have been a long-lost Immolation or Mithras record, for that matter.

Brood Of Hatred’s key influences are as obvious as they are American. The prominent use of dissonant, atonal riffing clearly takes a page from the book of Tom Wilkinson-era Immolation, while the songstructures recall pre-“Decimate Christendom” Incantation. The angular riffing style, the soloing and Mêlki’s more melodic inclinations are heavily informed by latter-day Death and Immolation circa “Here In After” and "Failures For Gods", respectively. Otherwise the guitar work uses post-hardcore accents to add to the otherworldly atmosphere. Brood Of Hatred plays death metal but they can't be pinned to down to a specific geographic sound and their many influences don't hail exclusively from the death metal genre.

It's all the more impressive that "Skinless Agony" sounds as thoroughly developed, melodically advanced and heavily structured as it does, especially in the light of Brood Of Hatred never having formally demoed in any meaningful capacity. The only thing of note that the band released previously was an EP, the majority of which was re-recorded for this session. Brood Of Hatred emerges on “Skinless Agony” as a fully-formed entity and full-fledged concept. In that regard they might very well be the Tunisian counterpart to Polish band Lost Soul. That is an accomplishment for any band, let alone one hailing from a third world continent.

Like its Polish contemporaries Brood Of Agony does not shy away from atmospheric enhancements. “Skinless Agony” is custodian to strategically-placed nuanced ambient sound effects and interludes. These segments very much help convey the dystopian future vision that the lyrics attempt to illustrate. In that sense they are reminiscent of vintage Fear Factory. Only on ‘The Singularity Is Near’ does Brood Of Hatred slightly stumble. Heavily-accented narration dampens the effect of what is otherwise a perfectably serviceable moodsetting interlude. The drumming is positively relentless, even though the double-bass pedalling often borders on the needlessly excessive. The melodic accents enhance the burly riffing and frequently dark sounding chord progressions, while the grunts hold the middleground  between Ross Dolan (Immolation) and Golem frontman Andreas Hilbert.

If there’s one thing that might work in Brood Of Hatred’s disadvantage it is the overly processed, squeaky clean and clinically sterile production that defines much of the character of “Skinless Agony”. It’s beyond glossy. Too clean perhaps for the branch of death metal that it pledges alliance to. It never reaches the soul-killing sterility of a latter-day Deeds Of Flesh record, neither does it lose itself in excessive overproduction that has plagued much of Dimmu Borgir’s lamentable Nuclear Blast repertoire – but there’s a certain amount of grit and dirt that should ooze from a band of this kind’s every pore. To its credit the bass guitar lies prominently in the mix, and has a full-bodied, rubbery tone. For the most part “Skinless Agony” tends to be almost too slickly produced and too polished. As it stands the entire package that Brood Of Hatred delivered here is one few bands this young can match.

Over the past couple of years Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Emblazoned have proven themselves to be one of the more resilient and reliable underground death/black metal combos. This shouldn’t really surprise anybody because “Eucharistiae Sacramentum” and “The Living Magisterium” spoke for themselves. Emblazoned very much believes in efficiency and doesn’t put a lot of faith in, well, faith and other people in general. “Catharsis” is just that. It’s a cathartic release of the blackest misanthropic hatred that is one part Malevolent Creation, one part early Deicide – and all awesome. As always it’s finely produced at Belle City Sound – and “Catharsis” is no different in that regard. If only all death/black metal was like this.

At the pumping black heart of Emblazoned is multi-instrumentalist Kevin Forsythe, a versatile performer who was in an earlier incarnation of indefatigable Kenosha killers Jungle Rot, and who by this point has worked out what little kinks there were in his songwriting formula on earlier outings. A.J. Lewandowski, who has sessioned with California’s Decrepit Birth, is in no small part responsible for Emblazoned sounding as lively as it does. His playing easily matches that of German band Obscura or the more underground Italian formation Resumed. As a bass guitarist his popping funky licks are integral to the band’s sound. Frontman Jeff Plewa and drummer Alex Pulvermacher are both more than serviceable in their respective areas, but remain fairly typical for the genre all the same. Moreso than in the past is Lewandowski’s bass playing on here instrumental to Emblazoned as a band.

Emblazoned was never much of a band to concern itself with niceties and ornamental bells and whistles. “Catharsis” pushes that aspect even further. The sole objective of “Catharsis” is delivering finely honed, perfectly streamlined American death metal with a hint of Polish technicality. It’s direct, to-the-point, and does exactly what it promises. Even when they play slower, which they do far more often now than in the not-so-distant past, Emblazoned remains as rugged and solid as they always have been. Forsythe understands better than most that less is always more. Forsythe produces records the way he writes: compact, functional – but never overproduced and/or bloated. Emblazoned’s complete lack of pretense should by all accounts be prevalent in the underground, but for some reason has become something of a rarity. In a music genre that has long since lost the last vestiges of individualism Emblazoned is a beacon of hope. Hope that somebody, somewhere still gets it. How the scales have tipped in just a short few years…

At 44 minutes “Catharsis” is the longest record Emblazoned has yet written but thanks to the brevity of Forsythe’s writing it feels a good 10 minutes shorter. In any case the current length is ideal for the kind of music that Emblazoned plays. It’s lean, mean, and absolutely pulls no punches whatsoever. It’s the kind of record that you’d wish Morbid Angel would still be able to conjure up (but never does), a direction that Vital Remains and Krisiun are no longer interested in pursuing, and that in the old days Pessimist could be relied upon to deliver with some semi-regularity. “Catharsis” perfectly fills that void. It has the meanest crunch, retains a sense of groove, and occasionally flirts with the technical – but never to the point of excess. It’s the kind of record that will never go down in the annals of genre history as essential or mandatory, but it has none such aspirations.

“Catharsis” embodies what pre-millennial death metal used to be all about. It wastes no time with a superfluous, redundant intro piece that amounts to nothing, it contains no orchestrations, or grand concept – it's just honest, blue-collar death metal composed and performed by guys who clearly love what they do. “Catharsis” cements Emblazoned’s status as one of the most underappreciated acts currently working the scene. Where else are you like to hear a band that combines best traits of Malevolent Creation, early Deicide and Vader into a finely honed, streamlined whole that is as groovy as it is technical? Emblazoned formed in 1999, and it shows. In every positive sense. Forsythe and his men have consistently proven to be able to match themselves with any of the genre’s old guard. It’s a pity that popular opinion will never appreciate bands like this as much they probably should.