Here we go again, then. Yet another absolutely face-smashing death metal record that adds fuel to the notion that the genre is experiencing another golden era. VITRIOL are from Portland, Oregon, a city known for its open-minded approach to heaviness and extremity. Whether the locals are ready for this insane onslaught is another matter, because while "To Bathe from the Throat of Cowardice" is undeniably inventive and bereft of cliché, it's also one of the darkest, most twisted and most remorselessly extreme death metal albums in living memory. If you've spent the last couple of months wrecking your neck to DISENTOMB's unstoppable "The Decaying Light", then here's your dessert: VITRIOL share the Australians' gift for wringing extra darkness from every drop in tempo and injecting every blast with a venomous intensity that takes the breath away, but these songs are even further detached from the modern DM blueprint, with a churning, malevolent undercurrent that betrays black metal roots and a sincere desire to unsettle.
If you make it through the first two tracks without losing your shit completely, you're a better human being than me. Both "The Parting of a Neck" and "Crowned in Retaliation" take a blitzkrieg approach, with machine-gun kicks and rolling waves of high-speed crunch, vocalist Adam Roethlisberger's dead-eyed roar erupting from the eye of the storm. "Legacy of Contempt" is equally bewildering, but its plunges into excoriating mid-tempo take VITRIOL somewhere slightly more accessible, albeit still with the constant threat of a violent, bloody death emanating from every riff and growl. "I Drown Nightly" is even more terrifying, with shades of IMMOLATION's abyssal riff vortex, clanging, blackened dissonance and more divebomb squeals than a Kerry King tribute show. It's all horribly/brilliantly claustrophobic and reaches a zenith of menace and madness during unhinged centerpiece "The Rope Calls You Brother": with their muscular battery extended to a more indulgent six minutes, VITRIOL stretch out across crazed tempo changes and some of the filthiest, sludgiest riffs of the year, with little syncopated flourishes hammering home this band's apparent mastery of their craft.
An air-raid siren ushers in the militaristic start of "A Gentle Gift", a song that takes off at an alarming pace; an all-out kamikaze berserker attack that marries the unstoppable, grinding forward motion of a tank swarm to the slamming, lobotomized myopia of brutal death metal at its most willfully atonal and fucked up. Again, as with that astonishing DISENTOMB album, "To Bathe from the Throat of Cowardice" ticks every conceivable death metal box while also sounding like a genuine step forward for the whole genre. Once your ears acclimatize to the relentless brutality of the whole thing, the subtly skewed riffs that propel the likes of "Violence, a Worthy Truth" and "Hive Lungs" forward begin to leap out; compelling evidence that VITRIOL are not just deathly ones to watch, but one of the most important bands operating in the scene today. If this is just the beginning, then whatever comes next promises to be an absolute abomination. Bring it on.