CORPSE GARDEN ‘Entheogen’ Review

Corpse Garden, the five-piece death metal outfit from Costa Rica have seen significant line-up changes since their 2012 debut full length release ‘Burnt By The Light’, which I was hugely impressed with; a chunk of classic styled death metal, with a subtle blend of technical and a touch of melodic, packed with superb guitar work and completed by brilliantly brutal vocals. How these changes would impact on follow up release ‘Entheogen’ I was curious to hear, not so much regarding how a different bass player would change the dynamics so much, but how the vocals would manifest with Roberto Vargas’s superbly deep and expansive, gargling growls replaced by Felipe Tencio’s voice. Fortunately, vocally he sits in a similar vein regarding depth of his growls but with a harder edge to their sound and his range is slightly broader.

This harder edge on the vocals sits compatibly alongside the now harder edged guitar work on ‘Entheogen’, something that is probably a natural progression rather than a direct effect of the line-up change, although there are some pretty stunning bass lines on ‘Evoking a Dead Sun’ and ‘Sulphur’, most importantly the overall sound is still excellent, a good balance between traditional death metal and technical metal, at times of quite crushing proportions with the bonus of some great thrashy edged guitar solos at times.

The album title ‘Entheogen’ refers to a chemical substance often used in religious or spiritual practices to aim for transcendence and the lyrics, rather interestingly, according to vocalist Felipe, go through each one of the seven operations of alchemical transformation and Carl Jung’s studies on Individuation. It’s a more adventurous offering also, the sound coming across as bolder and a bit more of an exploration into the extent of their capabilities, it’s also a longer listen than its predecessor in overall time, number of tracks and length of tracks and this allows for more creative scope within the tracks, which given the quality of this release from the writing all the way through to the playing and production, has got to be a good thing.

‘Entheogen’ is a difficult album to pick favourite tracks on, the consistency and quality is maintained across the album, if you like one track you will like them all, sliding straight into the mayhem from the mix of intense technical edged death metal riffing and brutal vocals, from the first notes of superb opening track ‘The Quantum Rapture’ pretty much all the way to the penultimate track, ‘Red Pulvis Solaris’ which has some insane riffing, something that is in abundance across the whole release, as are sunning guitar solos . They do break the it up with a few well placed, atmospheric , instrumental interludes , crucial with tracks of this intensity, the eerie ‘In the Womb of Chaos’, the equally eerie drum led ‘The Arrival of Saturn’ and ‘Neux Ex Machina’ although not quite an instrumental, with spoken background vocals that are blurred enough to keep the focus on the simple haunting yet effective guitar work and psychedelic programming, as well as closing on the hauntingly reflective, darkly psychedelic, extended instrumental ‘Enantiodromia’.

One track that just might have the edge on the rest as my favourite, but it’s a close call, is ‘Evoking a Dead Sun’. It’s the most varied, very fast and intense for the first half turning “space psychedelic” midway and taking on a more slow reflective feel, setting it up for a melancholic yet superb solo, in fact there is a huge abundance of guitar mastery on this track, as if there wasn’t enough on the others, the pace picking up again to the close with an excellent duelling guitar work to the close.

Also in need of a mention, ‘Portal to the Oneiric’ has a well balanced mix of technical and classic death metal riffing, ‘Suspended Over the Abyss’ is an intense rollercoaster ride for your ears with some insanely good off kilter riffing and superb second half guitar solo, ‘The First Incarnation’ has very broad ranging vocals and utterly ripping guitar work and ‘A Balance of Opposites’ with its hypnotic riffs and yet more stunning guitar work in the second half.

‘Entheogen’ was recorded at Bushido Audio Production Studio and mastered by Eri Román at SoloHit Studios in San José with artwork by Alexander L. Brown [BNB Illustration and Design] and will be released through both Russian Label Satanath Records and German Label RTM Productions.

Review by Jools Green

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