Faceless Burial are a death metal trio from Melbourne, Australia: bassist/vocalist Alex Macfarlane, guitarist Füj, and drummer Max Kohane. Their second full-length album, Speciation, is out this month, and demonstrates significant artistic growth on their part.

The band formed in 2015 and released its debut album, Grotesque Miscreation, independently in 2017. A tight 34-minute slab featuring nine tracks and a mercifully short sound-effects-heavy intro, it showcased a group already confident in their artistic identity.

The track titles (“Seeping Aberrational Fissures,” “Malignant Excavation,” “Grotesque Miscreation,” “Unrelenting Member,” “Dominion of Swelling Flesh and Chaos,” “The Transfiguration,” “Useless Seed,” “Excoriate,” “Black Ovulation”) implied that it might be a concept album about some kind of monster emerging from underground to impregnate a human woman, but it was hard to say because Macfarlane’s blast-furnace roar rendered the lyrics totally incomprehensible. The music made a strong impression all on its own, though; the riffs had the rumbling, rockslide quality of early Deicide or pre-Chaos A.D. Sepultura, Kohane’s drumming was blindingly fast, and Füj‘s guitar solos screamed across the sky.

Their follow-up was the Multiversal Abbatoir EP, released in 2018. It was more or less in line with the debut, but there were definite signs of growth. On “Thereomorphic Meconium Aspiration,” the production took some sharp left turns — during the guitar solo, the sound became significantly cleaner, allowing Macfarlane’s bass to be heard as an almost industrial-thrash rumble, rather than the usual swollen throb at the bottom of the mix. “Piteous Sepulchre (of Amentia)” also cleans up the sound somewhat, allowing the music to sound like the product of three individuals rather than an undifferentiated blasting roar. Füj‘s guitar solo was a wildly fluctuating squiggling scream, in the vein of Jeff Hanneman‘s playing with Slayer, or the Hoffman brothers’ with Deicide. At times, as on “Fistulated Beyond Recognition,” they slowed down to a doomy crawl reminiscent of Incantation, while still constructing a maze of constantly shifting riffs.

Speciation is Faceless Burial‘s first album for Dark Descent Records, and they’ve really upped their game. From the beginning, the sound of the album is cleaner and more polished, without ever sacrificing heaviness. Where they once had the muddy roar of early Deicide, they now have the thick, mournful boom of Immolation. The riffs wind around your head like carnivorous vines, hypnotic and eerily fascinating…until they start squeezing and your brain oozes out your ears. There’s even a little bit of melody to their death metal now; “Irreparably Corpsed” could almost be a Black Dahlia Murder song, if they were willing to play the same riff more than twice. The title track is the album’s longest, at 7:29, and its centerpiece. After an epic, doomy intro, it moves into a passage so downtuned it recalls early Godflesh, albeit underpinned by Kohane’s ever-busy drumming. Then they find a gear and begin chugging, occasionally rising out of the muck for just a second before being driven back in by another thunderous drum roll. But Füj‘s guitar solo leaps skyward in a brilliant display of prog-metal fireworks, giving the song genuinely cathartic emotional impact that elevates it for the rest of its running time.

Speciation is a major statement from a young band with a lot of promise. As good as Faceless Burial‘s early work was, they’re in an entirely new realm now.

Phil Freeman


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