Death metal can get so intricate, so ultra-progressive and technique-besotted, that putting one of the records on can feel like eavesdropping on something you weren’t meant to hear. It can feel like certain types of jazz, where it’s all about the bandmembers showing each other (and any fellow musicians who might be hanging at the gig) cool harmonic and rhythmic tricks they’ve come up with, the idea of writing a song being totally secondary, if it’s considered important at all. On the other hand, there are a lot of death metal bands that believe their raison d’être is getting a room full of sweaty, drunken dirtbags to headbang and throw the horns. Their music has more in common with punk and thrash than with progressive rock or jazz fusion, their songs have choruses—primitive ones, to be sure, more like shouted slogans than singalongs, but choruses nonetheless—and if there are solos, they’re short and pointed. For these bands, it’s all about a guitar tone thick as axle grease, a drum sound like a metal door slamming on your head, and kicking ass without mercy.
Distaste are from Austria, and they fit perfectly into category #2. Their second album, Black Age of Nihil, is out now, and it’s as efficient a series of kicks in the face and ribs as any metal fan could want. Despite their name beginning with “Dis,” they’re not a so-called D-beat band, descended from the raw, minimalist savagery of UK punk legends Discharge (see: Disfear, Disgust, Disrupt, and a billion others, many of whom don’t even have “Dis” names), even if that jackhammer rhythm does pop up in songs like “Einsamkeit” and “Regress.” Generally speaking, their sound is more indebted to Scandinavian and Northern European death metal of the early 1990s—bands like Entombed, Dismember, and Asphyx, and even modern acts operating in the same vein like Hail of Bullets, Rotten Sound, Unkind and Infanticide. There are strong elements of grindcore (blast beats, songs that finish well short of the two-minute mark) here, too, and a relentlessness that comes straight out of hardcore punk.
Musically, these guys are dead-on, purposeful and efficient in their savagery. Guitarist/vocalist Armin Schweiger (who’s also in Afgrund) has a guitar tone that cuts through the chaos like a pavement saw, and he howls and roars like he’s got leather lungs and vocal cords made of braided wire. Bassist Phillippe Seil fills as much of the mix as possible with a huge, distorted churn (his intro to the closing track, “Deuteronium 13:7-13:12,” is so heavy it would make the members of the Melvins shake their heads in admiration), while drummer Lukas Haidinger demolishes his kit, his double kick drum work as ferocious as anyone since Dave Lombardo on Slayer‘s “Silent Scream.”
Black Age of Nihil packs 17 fuzzed-out, blasting tracks into just under 36 minutes, and while they tend to blur together, that’s sort of the point. An album like this is meant to be heard in its entirety, to provide a jolt of energy and refill the listener’s rage-tank, and this one does that very well indeed. A lot of ink has been spilled on albums like Nails‘ Abandon All Life and Black Breath‘s Sentenced to Life; well, Black Age of Nihil is better than either of those albums, but Distaste‘s tiny Austrian label (Refused Records) has zero media cachet, and no money to hire the right publicists. So they’ve got to stand on their own merits.
Stream Black Age of Nihil below. You’ll be glad you did.