Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Lago - Marianas [EP]

When death metal is the topic of discussion, there are fewer things that make me happier than hearing that there are still bands out there busting their asses in order to keep the traditional death metal sound alive, breathing, and killing. We all know that the death metal genre has infinitely branched off into several different sub-categories. Many bands play death metal that has a more profound and soft melody, known as melodic death (Dark Tranquility, Arch Enemy, etc.). Atheist was the first of thousands of death metal bands (i.e. Obscura, Psycroptic, Origin) to play an extremely complex and technical variation of the genre known as technical death. Not only have bands been creating new forms of death metal, but there have also been bands combining the genre with grindcore (Dying Fetus, Wormed), black metal (Behemoth, Belphegor), folk (Eluveitie), and other styles that create an ENDLESS list of not only existing styles, but also of future possibilities. But a tree is nonexistent without a trunk. In other words, a genre is nothing without a healthy “generic” form.

The majority of the bands that make up the “trunk” of death metal started in the early to mid-1990s. Although there are several of those bands that are still alive and (sort of) kicking today (Morbid Angel, Vader, Obituary, Immolation, etc.), they’re starting to grow old (I think David Vincent is almost 50 years old). So obviously, with the proven fact that a band doesn’t last forever, we need an at least somewhat constant flow of new bands that play pure death metal. One of those bands happens to be one of the better ones that I’ve heard in quite some time, Lago.

Although there are some things that I can hear that I know are more recent trends, almost all of Lago’s sound is like a time machine that takes you back to 1992, apparently the year that death metal was in its prime (I wouldn’t know for sure because I wasn’t born until 1994). There are some aspects of early black metal and early melodic death that I can hear in some sections of a couple of the tracks on this EP. On the title track of the album which is also the first track, the really doomy sound in a minor tone reminds me of the first two Deicide records (except not nearly as brutal). There are two parts of this song that have a somewhat melodic vibe. The reason I say “somewhat” is because it seems that being melodic wasn’t the main focus right there. I wouldn’t say that those parts were half-assed just to show some cheap variation in their music, because they fit in with the rest of the song just fine, but there’s a hell of a lot of room for improvement on both of those interludes.

The vocals are just brutal. I have a MAJOR soft-spot for REALLY deep, powerful, guttural, and crisp exhaled growls. I just LOVE it! That’s why I love the vocalists for The Faceless, Opeth, Amorphis, and Spawn of Possession so damn much! His vocals are much deeper than what I’m used to, I wouldn’t say they sound crisp because although they have texture, there’s a mushy softness to them (sounds yummy, I know) that matches the lack of treble that the overall sound of the music has (which is a VERY good thing, by the way). Because of newer genres like metalcore and deathcore getting extensive attention from the media by making breakdowns a huge part of their image and stereotype, “non-core” bands of today have since purposefully steered away from using huge breakdowns in their music. I love how Lago goes back to the 1990s and goes as far as to play the same kind of breakdowns that bands like Dying Fetus, Suffocation, and Grave have been playing since they first started.

There’s just ONE thing that bothers me…those stupid shrieks. Get rid of those, and we’ve got something in the 15-16/20 range. But really, for me, those vocals only work when they’re the primary vocal style that the band uses (which is mainly only found in grindcore). And yes, I know that Vital Remains, Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, and other death metal bands from way back when used a combination of screaming and growling in their music, but I mean…I just can’t take this shrieking thing seriously; not one bit. This was also the major problem that I had with Awaiting the Autopsy; it just comes out of fucking NOWHERE, it doesn’t fit the music, and it just sounds plain bad. If these shrieks could be changed to a style that’s more like a high-pitched growling or even a vocal-fry style, I can definitely see that working out great. But this? No way, man.

I have to give Lago credit for not only being one of the few underground bands doing what they can to keep the pure death metal sound alive and killing, but also for being GOOD at it. This is an above-average EP and should be picked up if the opportunity presents itself. Although I can see the majority of extreme metal fans giving this at least a positive score, the diehard death metal fans are the ones that would probably get the most enjoyment out of this release. I would give this EP 13/20 and I will be looking forward to hearing more material from this band in the years to come.