Reviewed By Andrew McKaysmith
According to their Facebook page, Swedeath purists Sentient Horror ironically hail from the town of Stockholm in New Jersey! So I guess one could say the band is showing its hand rather early.
With that in mind, as I was perusing the album's 12 tracks I actually found myself at a crossroad. Do I review the album on its relative merits as a scare-your-neighbour's odyssey into the valley of pre-Wolverine Blues Entombed? Or should it be more critically examined as a release in 2016 for 2016? I'll choose the former, as I am of the view it is patently unfair to critique a band that has gone to such painstaking lengths to produce a sound so authentic it could almost be mistaken for a long lost gem from the land of the blue and gold flag circa 1991.
On Ungodly Forms the band has constructed an album that can survive repeated listens. I know this because it actually took me rather a few spins to get into the flow of what the band were trying to achieve within the Swedeath framework. It certainly isn't a boring "more brutal than thou" experience, and there are enough interesting ideas to keep the listener engaged. With this sub-genre, probably more than any other under the death metal banner, it is crucial that there are plenty of crushing riffs, and to Sentient Horrors' credit some of these are almost original!
Assuming guitarist/vocalist and founder Matt Moliti has written and played all guitar solos on the album, his note placement is at times reminiscent of the great Paco Di Lucia-inspired Ralph Santolla. No small accolade in this scribe's opinion as Ralph stands tall as death metal's finest architect of a solo (listen to Decide's "Homage for Satan" for exhibit A). Matt and his six string comrade Jon Lopez have also mastered the use of the death'n'roll trill across most of the tracks so essential to making Swedeath, well Swedeath. To refine the previous point these trills act as the glue that join one riff to another, and some of the more memorable passages actually dance tiny circles of death to live a life of their own within the song.
There really isn't a standout track, as I heard the album as a unit rather than a collection of songs. What I particularly liked was the relative strength of the 2nd half of the album. From "Suffer to the Grave" through to the final track "Celestial Carnage" I am tempted to say that these are a stronger collection of songs than those before, however I'd suggest that this is an illusion due to the maturity demonstrated within the song writing across the album. By the time you reach track eight you're almost invested in finishing the album out. There is an even spread of good ideas, rather than just lumping them together in a track or two and hoping for a breakout "hit". If I did enjoy a particular track, I'd highlight the Instrumental "Mourning" which apes the Annihilator track "Mending" from the 1999 release Criteria for a Black Widow. "Mourning" wouldn't have so much impact on its own but surrounded by the riffing shrapnel of the other songs it is a welcome reprieve.
So all in all it is a rather enjoyable album. The lyrics and vocal delivery are what you would expect of a release of this nature, so don't go looking for hidden meaning or a double entendre. The bass makes an occasional well defined rumble and the drumming is surprisingly well recorded and mixed in with the rest of the instruments
The only problem for Sentient Horror is that they may not be able to follow this album up easily. But what a problem to have!