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Bavarian progressive death metal trio Odetosun have been one of our favourite constellations in the underground of recent years. The trio – Luke Stuchly (vocals), Benny Stuchly (guitars, bass guitar, keyboards) and Gunther Rehmer (drums) - formed as Oden’s Raven in 2008 as a typical melodic death metal band with Viking themes, not unlike early Amon Amarth and Unleashed and their ilk, before steering towards more adventurous realms. We extensively sang our praises for their 2013 debut “Gods Forgotten Orbit” on these pages, but never came around to properly covering their second opus “The Dark Dunes Of Titan” from 2015 the way it probably deserved and the way we probably should have. Now, four years removed from their second album, the Stuchly brothers are back with ‘Spiritual Decay’, the first in a series of thematically interconnected singles to be released seperately. Whether Odetosun has abandoned the album format as a whole is presently unclear, but it’s good to have the masters of the atmospheric and the meditative back all the same. So how does ‘Spiritual Decay’ fit in with Odetosun’s repertoire?

There has always been a profound Pink Floyd influence evident through out the music that Odetosun writes. Whether it’s the David Gilmour inspired manner that Benny solos or the resounding booming bass guitar and the serene keyboards that feature prominently in the trio’s compositions. The more progressive – and ambient aspects of both “The Division Bell” and “A Momentary Lapse Of Reason” all can be heard in the two records preceding this single. Comparatively ‘Spiritual Decay’ is on the uptempo and upbeat side of things compared to what Odetosun usually does. However not soon after the opening section the single reverts back to the trio’s usually meditative midtempo and it sounds like nothing substantial has changed since Odetosun last released music. “The Dark Dunes Of Titan” was a nearly 50-minute conceptual exercise inspired by the 1972 Ben Bova novel “As On A Darkling Plain”. ‘Spiritual Decay’ was inspired the ubiquitous decline of civilization and spiritual achievements of human culture, and the first in a series of singles to be sporadically released until the trio’s third album materializes. As an isolated track ‘Spiritual Decay’ fits in seamlessly with what the trio has done before.

What has always separated Odetosun from more conventional bands is their staunch refusal to let themselves be dictated by their metallic components. Odetosun is far more dreamy and ethereal than, say, an Obscura or a Pavor. Like both those bands the bass guitar features prominently and their classification as death metal is secondary to their progressive - and post rock inclinations. Another great thing is that Odetosun never adheres to the typical metal imagery and visuals. Like Neurosis before them these three men are comfortable in their everyman and mountain man look. Stuchly’s signature melodies run rampant through out ‘Spiritual Decay’ and that it could have been culled from either “The Dark Dunes Of Titan” or “Gods Forgotten Orbit” speaks volumes of the creative alchemy that these three men have going on. There have been changes in the Odetosun camp. Their production value has steadily increased and their musicality and creativity is on an all-time high since the days of “Gods Forgotten Orbit”. If ‘Spiritual Decay’ is but a prelude to further new music we can only hope that Odetosun will continue to release new singles until their following album at long last arrives.

Suitably below the mainstream and somewhat of an underdog Odetosun is the ultimate musical pariah. They’re probably “too heavy” for the progressive rock crowd and, logically, too laidback and esoteric for the stereotypical death metal fan. Odetosun is guided only by their creativity and since their inception they haven’t paid much attention to what they classify as. Whether you want to call them as a progressive rock band with death metal overtones, or as a death metal band with progressive inclinations – the long and short of it is that Odetosun is one of the better independent metal bands currently working the German underground. “Gods Forgotten Orbit” sounded very oceanic, breezy, and exotic, “The Dark Dunes Of Titan” gravitated towards a more spacey, airy and celestial direction. ‘Spiritual Decay’ combines the two in something that can only be described as meditative and, well, spiritual. If Nümph or Caelestis played death metal, they would probably sound something like this. As it stands Odetosun remains criminally underappreciated in their own genre. If ‘Spiritual Decay’ can turn a few more people towards their music, then it served its purpose.

One of the greatest perks of reviewing music (if you manage to overcome or, better, avoid becoming a bitter jaded cynic that no longer gets excited by anything in the process) is discovering talented musicians waiting to break out and seeing the formation of new bands as they happen. Ferum (no, this band isn’t called Perun, even though Cianide obviously was a key influence and they even cover the song ‘Funeral’ from them) is an Italian death/doom trio that is barely a year old but already scored a recording contract with Everlasting Spew Records and Unholy Domain Records for their debut EP “Vergence”. Ferum is made up of three seasoned underground veterans (two of whom have been in a band together earlier) and it’s evident that the darkness in the Italian catacombs is very much alive. It’s a rare and distinct pleasure discovering a band this young that has conceptualized its vision and overall direction of choice so precisely. Ferum is one such band and it makes a scribe as yours truly content to be a music critic.

Angelica Pinetti (left), Samantha Alessi (middle), and Matteo Anzelini (right)

Samantha Alessi is a girl in the Italian underground metal scene whose progress as a songwriter and musician we’ve been monitoring with great interest over the last couple of years. Suffice to say the redhaired miracle has been in a number of different constellations during that time, but the newly forged Bologna-based Ferum (Latin for “fierce”) is the first unit where she is in complete creative control. “Vergence” (or ‘the simultaneous movement of both eyes in opposite directions to obtain or maintain single binocular vision’, also sprach the infinitely wise Wikipedia) is a summation of virtually every band and genre Alessi has dipped her tiny toes in prior to its formation in 2017. Samantha is a girl close to our black heart. Bodacious, vivacious, multi-talented (she plays guitar and bass guitar next to her singing) and with an excellent taste in music to boot. To be entirely frank we were sold on Ferum without even having heard a single note of music. Samantha has put her money where her mouth is. Acta non verba. “Vergence” thankfully lives up to every one of our assumptions in terms of how we imagined Ferum would sound.

For an Italian band Ferum sounds distinctively Swedish. At least as far as its riffs are concerned. “Vergence” is permeated with the influence of Unleashed (“Where No Life Dwells”, “Shadows in the Deep”) and Necrophobic (“The Nocturnal Silence”), its charnel doom passages recall the darkest moments of early Asphyx (“Embrace the Death”, “The Rack”) as well as Autopsy’s “Mental Funeral” whereas the general direction is somewhere along the lines of Death’s primitive beginnings with “Scream Bloody Gore” and “Leprosy” with a thoroughly morbid and decrepit disposition not unlike Blasphereion. Samantha’s sickly rasps and bellowed grunts sound absolutely monstrous without ever becoming overly guttural or exceedingly serpentine. Matteo Anzelini’s bass guitar is positively thundering with a full-bodied tone that would make Demilich and Gorefest proud. Angelica Pinetti’s drumming is fitting for the style holding the middleground somewhere between Kyle Severn from Incantation, Ilaria Casiraghi from Ekpyrosis, and King Fowley from Deceased (circa “Luck Of the Corpse”). In other words, these two girls and guy know their underground classics, and it shows. Ferum plays it far closer to the chest than, say, Amthrya – but like them “Vergence” is bereft of any modern influences, which is one of the EP’s biggest selling points. The only thing we sort of miss is a nicely laid out explosive guitar solo or two, but that's mere nitpicking, not a complaint.

‘Siege Of Carnality’ is equal parts “Seven Churches” Possessed, Death circa “Scream Bloody Gore” and any early European death/doom metal pioneer of note with a churning Swedish death metal main riff. ‘Perpetual Distrust’ has guest vocals from Marko Neuman from Finnish funeral death/doom metal combo Convocation (their debut “Scars Across” had some of the greatest artwork in the underground this year). It is by far the most Incantation sounding track of the EP, which is never a bad thing. During its more psychedelic moments it is reminiscent of now defunct Riti Occulti (circa 2012) without said band’s overt retro occult metal imagery and production aesthetic. ‘Subconscious Annihilation’ further explores the doom metal direction of the preceding track and hints that Ferum could very well head into a diSEMBOWELMENT “Transcendence into the Peripheral” direction if they so desired.

Not even the closing (and somewhat swinging) psychedelic stoner riff feels out of place eventhough it stands in stark contrast to the rest of the track. ‘Funeral’ is played true to form and Ferum is at its best when playing slow grinding deep cutting Cianide riffs. The brooding outro ‘Ed è Subito Sera’ (‘And then it is Night’) is a black as pitch dirgey doom waltz in tradition of Winter, Sempiternal Deathreign, and (who else?) Cianide set to a poem of Sicilian novelist, Hermetic poet and Nobel laureate Salvatore Quasimodo with a prominent place for Anzelini’s bass guitar. There’s a minor undercurrent of psychedelic – and stoner doom metal to some of the riffing and overall atmosphere with Ferum. Not exactly surprising considering some of Alessi’s and Pinetti’s prior bands but it tends to contrast heavily with their fully realized traditional death/doom metal direction.

If one was to compare Ferum to any of the classic bands it would be earliest Hypocrisy, especially “Penetralia” and “Obsculum Obscenum”. Like that band Ferum has the meanest crunch and Samantha’s beastly bellows are as everlasting spewed and vociferously vomited as any of the classic European death metal bands. The similarity in delivery to Acrostichon circa “Engraved In Black” is fairly obvious. Over the last fifteen or so years Italy has become the new Poland in terms of housing some of the fastest, most mechanical and inhumanly technical death metal that is about as glossy as it is soulless. Thankfully that movement is now countered by a resurgence of so-called “cavernous” death metal acts out of the underground. Ferum clearly knows their American and European genre classics. There used to be a time when death metal like this didn’t came with the redundant old school or cavernous prefix and things were easier and simpler back then. Ferum has no intention of reinventing the wheel and they don’t do so either. There’s a dire need for bands as Ekpyrosis, Ferum and Amthrya that defy convention where/whenever they can. Modern death metal tends to retroactively date itself through the usage of all of the usual cover artists and production techniques. Ferum lives and breathes death metal the way it was intended. Samantha never disappoints, and neither does she here. The Latin proverb corvus oculum corvi non eruit never rang truer.