Skip to content

cover-gorefest02.jpg

 

There comes a moment in every band’s life when they are forced to change either by choice or by circumstance. This is the time when they need to adapt to their surroundings in order to survive. For Dutch band Gorefest that time arrived when they were set to write and record their second album “False”. The Dutch death metal mavens Gorefest had taken in new perspectives and ideas from touring regionally with the celebrated Carcass and Revenant, and their second offering was bound to reflect those new experiences. “False” - the band’s second full-length release - differs significantly from their “Mindloss” debut. Not only is this album more mature musically and lyrically, it also is the band’s most proficiently and professionally executed product up until that point with producer Colin Richardson behind the console providing his finest work.

gorefestAs a matter of providing the right amount of context and perspective we need to get some history out of the way first. Since “Mindloss” the band lost its rhythm section with the ousting of both main songwriter Alex van Schaik (guitar) and Marc Hoogedoorn (drums). There are conflicting reports on why exactly both members left, either by their own accord, or that they were fired from their positions. Sources note that van Schaik and Hoogedoorn were relieved of duty because Jan-Chris De Koeijer (vocals, bass guitar) and Frank Harthoorn (lead guitar) were dissatisfied with their level of musicianship. Other sources claim that Hoogedoorn was ousted due to a lack of interest. Whatever the case, Gorefest didn’t wane in the creative - and musical sense due to the absence of the duo’s input into the songwriting. In fact, their dismissal seemed to light a fire under the unit. Gorefest sounds more determined, more focused and hungrier than ever before. "False" was bound to sound different. Very different.

“False” is notable because it is the writing and recording debut for lead guitarist Boudewijn Bonebakker, whose sparkling and melodic guitar work would come to characterize the band in the years to follow. Ed Warby, the new man behind the drums, came into the band a mere two weeks before recordings were set to commence. To say that his arrival was met with trepidation would be an understatement, as he cut his teeth in traditional metal outfit Elegy. Despite all these reservations the two new recruits make a spectacular debut. Bonebakker trades off leads with Frank Harthoorn like he had been doing it for years and new skinsman Ed Warby is ten times the drummer Marc Hoogedoorn ever was. Whether playing at breakneck pace, or doom-like dirge tempos Warby does all without breaking a sweat. Overall his drumming is more sophisticated, better arranged and balanced than Hoogedoorn’s one-dimensional beats.

Freed of the restricting shackles of horror and gore, Jan-Chris De Koeijer writes about socially relevant subjects such as war, national-socialism/racism, the influence of mass media, the hypocrisy of organized religion and its practitioners, televangelism and the insignificance of the individual in a consumption-driven society that treats people as disposable goods. It can be argued that De Koeijer was no Chuck Schuldiner, and while it is clear that English wasn’t his first language, the subjects touched upon and their treatment at least are worth mentioning. Although this record was released two decades ago, the subjects they talk about are as relevant now as they were back then. This is the sort of stuff that this worthy of reflection anytime – back then, now and in the future

From the opening track ‘The Glorious Dead’ onwards one thing is clear. “False” is a far more structured and ambitious undertaking. Taking a cue from Carcass’ third album “Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious” the record opens with a sample, and the track itself is far more elaborate in construction and execution than anything this band has attempted prior. The riffing, while still primal and murky, is far more articulate and better phrased. There is a far greater reliance on dissonant chord progressions present, and the ancient thrash metal architecture has been fully abandoned at this point. Bonebakker’s presence brings the more traditional metal influence of Harthoorn’s writing to the surface, and his harmonized, neo-classical leads add a degree of intelligence previously unheard of in this unit. Warby’s drumming consists of a variety of styles and techniques that elevate the material tremendously in depth and texture.

back

As hinted upon previously, “False” was more or less ahead of its time in 1992. The album is almost industrial in construction, with an emphasis on heavily rhythmic progressions and percussive density. The sludgy Autopsy/Cannibal Corpse sound is abandoned, in favor of a more streamlined, groove-laden approach to death metal that recalls Bolt Thrower more than anything else. The handdrawn artwork suggests a variety of topics the band deal with in their lyrics. Given that this album was produced by Colin Richardson (who had worked with Bolt Thrower, Carcass, Fear Factory, Massacre, Napalm Death and Sinister around this time) the production is evenly balanced for each instrument. The level of texture is deeper than it ever was, and the overall dryness of the whole production emphasizes the band’s rumbling low-end heaviness. The guitars possess a lot of body and are meaty, the bass guitar features more prominent than ever. The drums sound somewhat thin on the snares and toms, in my opinion, but they come with a level of clarity and definition not heard previous from this band. Jan-Chris’ vocals are less vomited, more grunted but a lot more commanding. They are actually incredibly well pronounced given what this vocal style would revert to in the decades to come.

The profound influence of “False” would become clear years down the line as various metal bands would come to appreciate its structure and overall form. Fear Factory’s debut “Soul Of A New Machine” was built from the same template, Napalm Death’s “Fear, Emptiness, Despair” took kind to the heavy rhythmic progressions, and the percussive density. Sepultura’s artistic death certificate “Chaos AD” would experiment further with the industrial framework that this record introduced. Brutal Truth’s “Need to Control” takes lesser direct influence from this record, although their single ‘God Player’ clearly is a nod to the writing and song construction presented on this album. Just to say that “False” not only was an important record in Europe, in America it was seen and heard too, and many leading bands later recordings reflect that in their own output.

cover-yattering.jpg

 

Of all the Polish bands that followed in the wake of Vader’s ongoing conquest of mainland Europe and North America with “Litany”, Yattering was the most technical and also, for lack of a better term, the weirdest. The fact that they named themselves after a demon of an early Clive Barker novel is the least weird bit of all. Even though their logo includes a skeletal pentagram, there’s not much overtly anti-religious about the band’s concept, and there never was. The band was one of the most promising additions to the scene along with the youngsters from Decapitated. A string of bad business decisions and touring debacles eventually led to the untimely demise of this East-European death metal outfit. In the decade that they were active, from 1996 to 2006, they released three death metal albums, of which “Murder’s Concept” is the second.

After two demo sessions and their debut “Human’s Pain” from 1998, the band came fully into their own with “Murder’s Concept”. Outside of the broken English titles (for the album, songs and a good portion of the lyrics even) this band is surprisingly professional in its aims. As the title suggests this is a concept album about a fictional serial killer and homicide in general. I have no idea what a “murder’s concept” is, but I’m sure they meant “The Concept of Murder” instead. Where others (Macabre, for one) idolize real life atrocities committed by deviants of our own society, Yattering here approach the multi-faceted subject from a more psychological, internal and emotional point of view. Despite the band’s limited knowledge of the English language, they are able to roughly convey the feelings of their album’s protagonist as he is tempted to kill, and when he eventually kills the lyrics go through great lengths to describe his feelings and mental state.

Vocalist/bassist Marcin "Śvierszcz" Świerczyński has a serviceable grunt, but isn’t a standout in any shape or form. His vocal work will him not make stand out when compared to other known Polish figureheads such as Nergal (Behemoth), Cezar (Christ Agony), Peter (Vader) or Jacek Grecki (Lost Soul).  Axe men Mariusz "Trufel" Domaradzki and Marek "Hudy" Chudzikiewicz lay down a solid foundation of technical riffs and mad thrashings with a healthy amount of leads/solos to spice up proceedings in a highly effective manner. The biggest star of this record is drummer Marcin "Ząbek" Gołębiewski. While his playing style is busy and over-the-top with an impressive array of rolls, fills and blasts with just the right amount of kickdrum salvos and cymbal crashes, he knows when to rein it in and let the groove take over and just flow along.

Scattered through out the record are light industrial flourishes, these serve to add to the feeling of paranoia and alienation, and are meant to reflect the slowly disintegrating mental state of the protagonist. Re-recorded from their debut album here is the track ‘Exterminate’, the strongest of that session and this one. Its presence isn’t very surprising as it was contributed to Relapse Records’ “Polish Assault” compilation series, albeit in an earlier and rougher sounding demo version. From what I gather around the net a lot of people are thrown off by these industrial segues, but I honestly don’t see why that would the case. They aren’t obtrusive and they are relegated to either end or introduce a particular song. While I’m generally conventional in my tastes for this genre, these segues hugely contribute to the otherworldly atmosphere this record aims for.
The production is crunchy but on the rough side, which is not surprising since this band obviously didn’t have the financial means as its more popular and major label backed brethren such as Behemoth, Lost Soul or Vader. The guitar tone is crisp and possesses a lot of clarity and definition, this becomes especially clear during the many lead/solo sections. The drum tone isn’t overdone and never sounds thin. The difference between toms, snares and kickdrums is clearly defined and balanced just right. The bass guitar can be clearly heard, and although the playing isn’t especially poignant, it at least manages to contribute to the songs in its own minimal way. On the whole the production is roomy but organic, and digital only in minor bits and parts.

If you ever tire of Behemoth’s thelemic subjects, the esoterica of Vader or the self-empowering rhetoric of Lost Soul, this band might just be the thing you’re looking for. More earthly and societal in its subject matter, this short-lived band at least for a while was the brightest star in the rapidly expanding Polish death metal scene of the late 90s and early 2000s. That the band went into disarray due to various bad business – and touring decisions makes it only more lamentable. Just imagine what this band could have been had they been properly backed and thoroughly promoted through the right channels… If only, if only… The world might never know what could have been.