“Liturgy Of Ritual Execution”, the debut of Sacramento, California act Embodied Torment, is proof that not all contemporary death metal bands are created equal. As a spiritual successor to once-relevant outfits Disgorge and Brodequin, the Californians, who formed in 2011 as the uncreatively named Sever Dismember, combine the best elements of traditional and modern day death metal. It’s not hard to see why New Standard Elite, by and large a substitute for early 2000s Unique Leader and United Guttural, offered them a recording contract and considers them a priority band.
Embodied Torment combines the chaotic delivery of Disgorge with early Flesh Consumed riffing and Brodequin inspired drumming. Matthew Chaco, previously bass guitarist with Serpent & Seraph, is a serviceable frontman that has a standard grunt reminiscent of A.J. Magana and Levi Fuselier. He doesn’t possess the nuance and intonation of a Daniel Corchado or Karl Willets – but he is leagues above the interchangeable growlers that tend to populate bands of this sort these days. Like many contemporary guitarists in the genre Joaquin Chavez is mainly concerned with including as many riffs as possible, and not necessarily with which of those riffs work best for the song. David Ko’s bass guitar is mostly felt, and it only has a few brief spots to shine through out the album. The star of the record is drummer Cynthia Switzer, who combines the percussive density of Chad Walls with the nuance and techniques of original Deeds Of Flesh skinsman Joey Heaslet. The main influences seem to be Disgorge and Brodequin whereas shades of Flesh Consumed (“Mutilate, Eviscerate, Decapitate”), modern day Gorgasm and early Deeds Of Flesh can be heard in various bits and parts too.
‘Descent into the Forlorn Chambers’ is a completely superfluous intro that serves no meaningful purpose. ‘Oubliette’ is about its namesake dungeon that was popular during the Middle Ages. ‘Rädern’ (German for ‘breaking wheel’) concerns The Wheel, a torture device used for capital punishment during the Middle Ages. ‘Thrones Of the Slain’ chronicles the 1435 French insurgence from the citizens of Pays de Caux against the English, led by Norman dissident Jean de Grouchy, during the Hundred Year War. ‘Epoch Of Suffering’ and ‘Thrones Of the Slain’ are surprisingly atmospheric and melodic, and thus the stand out tracks because they differ so radically from the remainder of the album. The bass guitar briefly has a moment in two songs (‘Fermented in Existential Terror’ and ‘Rädern’), but it can be heard in ‘Epoch Of Suffering’, the only song on the album to have a very brief guitar solo. Considering the list of this band’s influences it is only logical that the record is concluded with a cover of Brodequin song ‘Judas Cradle’.
There is nothing particularly imaginative about the vocal work. There are numerous nuances and little details in the guitar work and drumming that make up for the lack of vocal fireworks. Opening track ‘Oubliette’, ‘Fermented In Existential Terror’ and ‘Rädern’ are compositionally more ambitious than the other songs on the record. ‘Epoch Of Suffering’ starts off with a spooky slow section and bass guitar solo that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Morbid Angel and Brain Drill album, respectively. The longest, and most ambitious track of the record is the superb ‘Thrones Of the Slain’. With its atmospheric opening and pensive, dirgey bridge that borders on doom metal territory it sounds as if an almost completely different band wrote the track. It’s the only track of its kind as it tries to create an atmosphere of hatefulness with creepy melodies, “Dawn Of the Apocalypse” era Vital Remains soloing, and monk chants. It displays a degree of sophistication, a hitherto unheard level of finesse and restraint that the rest of the record misses. It’s the sort of track that Deeds Of Flesh’ ‘A Violent God’ wish it would be. This is the direction that Embodied Torment should consider taking its music in.
The album was entirely home-recorded and produced by guitarist Joaquin Chavez. It is surprising that the record ended up sounding as good as it does. Never overcompressed, sterile or brickwalled “Liturgy Of Ritual Execution” is blessed with a lush mix that evenly distributes all instruments and effects. The guitar tone is crunchy and clearly defined, and the bass guitar is thick and oozing as it flows underneath the riffs and in between the relentless drumming. The drum kit sounds positively enormous and imposing, especially the booming kicks. Some of the snares or toms occassionally sound a bit clonky but it is a minor issue considering. There’s a very organic warmth to the drums, and not one part of the kit sounds processed or overly synthesized, which is something of a rarity in the genre. It has a very rich, deep tone that it’s somewhat puzzling that the band didn’t chose to capitalize on it more fully within the context of its songs. Thankfully the bass guitar is allowed to break through the concrete guitars and vocals.
“Liturgy Of Ritual Execution” is a contemporary death metal album but one that avoids the pitfalls and shortcomings that such description usually entails. The songwriting at least is slightly more diversified and engaging than the average Comatose Music or Sevared Records contractee. The band, while leaning towards the contemporary end of the spectrum, is intelligent enough to not base its assault completely around breakdowns and/or atonal, hookless songwriting. The tall end of the record is where its potential truly comes to the fore, and hopefully they’ll continue to grow. One can only hope that Embodied Torment embraces its traditional leanings further and considers integrating more solos, on either guitar or bass guitar. Embodied Torment is one of the few bands that is traditional and pure without being gimmicky about it. The spectacular artwork by Paolo Girardi is a definite selling point - although one can only hope that drummer Cynthia will paint the cover artwork for the follow-up to this promising debut.