VANHELGD, Church of Death (2011, Nuclear War Now! Productions)
There comes a time in a man’s life when he makes certain profound realizations about himself. There comes a time when a man must surrender to cold truths. For this Friar, that time is now: I freaking loving skulls rendered with some kinda crazy dripping shit somewhere in the picture. Like the Thrall skull of last week, or this fine specimen Vanhelgd have blessed us with. Here the dripping is not that of black tears from the sockets, but a treatment to the painting itself. Intentional, ceratinly, but I’d still like to think the artist just finished the piece, set it in the windowsill to dry, and forgot that the weather forecast was for rain. Whatever the origin-story of its creation, this is a very good piece of artwork, and the dripping gives it that extra-morbid vibe. Even the logo drips.
The lust for old-style death metal continues unabated; it’s probably fair to say it never totally died in Sweden. This is yet another new school/old school Swedish band, and their particular brand of death is (unsurprisingly) similar to early Dismember, (less unsurprisingly) recalls Eucharist, and (as a mandatory ingredient of all good Swedish death) throws obvious hails to early Paradise Lost. This latter influence is especially apparent in “The Final Storm.” It’s a standout feature of Church of Death, and I would also point out the great vocal performance, mostly excellent because there are two distinctive voices here, handled by both guitarists, which helps to color some already dynamic and subtly textured death metal. Another fair point of reference would be Gorement, had they continued to evolve this way instead of going the Cathedral-ish death-rock direction before prematurely disbanding. Vanhelgd turn in a relatively fresh take on an old style, and this is one of the better albums from the new generation of old school bands from this country. It ain’t quite Tribulation, and it certainly can’t touch the great Morbus Chron, but I could see them evolving that way. Their third album is just around the corner…I wonder if a similarly progressive stylistic shift is in store. I kind of hope so, but then again, another album of this sort of thing wouldn’t be entirely unwelcome.
— Friar Wagner