ASYLIUM, An Architecture of Human Desolation (2011, Necrotic)
This Swedish band is extremely skull-friendly. We’ll get to the album cover in a sec, but we must note that their label (from Illinois, interestingly enough) has a logo that features a skull, and the guitarist in the band wears a hoodie that shows a humongous air-brushed skull on it. Good on ya, Fredrik Lundell! The cover itself is not too bad, although it’s hard to glean any real meaning from it. Just as the band’s pretty cool logo is entangled in barbed wire, so the skull is entangled in stringy black threads, perhaps the very threads of sanity, or perhaps the twig-like ends of tree branches that are also seen in the right half of the artwork background. The skull looks longingly off into the distance — this is yet another sub-set of Big Dumb Skull covers, the “contemplative side-view skull.” He apparently keeps up diligently with his dental hygiene, having a mouth full of gleaming white choppers.
I’m always skeptical when a Swedish death metal band is made up of members who have not played in any other bands (excepting their drummer, but his other two bands are ones you’ve never heard of). It’s just not the way this Swedish scene runs its business. So, how are they? They’re fine, thank you. No seriously, they’re fine. And, the more I listen, the more I think they’re a step or two above “fine.” They’re very heavy, with a scathing, super-intense thrash thread running through their death metal, almost as if Merciless reformed again and tried to outblast the modern death metal competition. Their guitar sound is less of the bloated, Grave-like/Dismember-esque sort of thing and more like Liers In Wait or the like, that sinewy, psychotic sound typical of the original Gothenburg bands. They really do resemble an updated version of Liers In Wait, and there’s a melodic progression that reminds me of Eucharist in “An Eternity of Human Decay.” They also recall the great and underrated Uncanny, complete with the ultra-seething, frantic momentum, super-abrupt time changes and otherworldly atmosphere. Vocally it’s all pretty deathly, nothing very distinctive but a good throaty delivery imbued with plenty of power; at the very least it lets you know this is very goddamned Swedish. Yep, if you dig Uncanny and Liers In Wait and want something along those lines with a slightly fuller, more modern production, Asylium and this album will fit the bill.
— Friar Wagner