Undeath rips. That might be the most important takeaway from the Rochester, New York band’s second album, It’s Time…To Rise from the Grave, and if all any reader needed was confirmation that the album does, indeed, rip, well here it is. Shred pass granted.
It’s important to note that Undeath ripped from day one, the release of their debut album Lesions of a Different Kind arriving six months into Covid-19 lockdown with an urgency and momentum that low-grade anxiety indoors, listening to Brian Eno, could neither provide nor likely sanction. Funny, then, how a life lived in isolation and immobility makes more visceral and immediate the need for an actual goddamn thrill. Lesions provided that and then some, a gauntlet of burly riffs and barbaric grooves that hit hard and fast, offering exactly the experience in brutality that a great death metal album should provide—nothing more, nothing less.
It’s Time…To Rise from the Grave is both an expansion and enhancement of the world of horror and hostility that Undeath constructed on their auspicious, accessible debut. The band’s affection for death metal, both in its aesthetics and as a vessel for catharsis and sheer hedonism, is well documented and infectious. They’re as much committed to celebrating the pure, dumb fun of death metal as they are in helping push it forward, which on It’s Time they do while honoring the time-honored currency of death metal: The riff. “We know you want the big riff,” vocalist Alexander Jones told Decibel in a recent feature. “And we want to play it as much as you want to hear it.”
Those riffs? Sick as fuck. They grind and they gore, they’re monstrous and hypercharged as if harnessing lightning from the heavens. Everything the band did well on their debut is rendered in greater precision and clarity, Jared Welch and Kyle Beam’s guitars slashing like broadswords beneath Jones’ supernatural growl. From the descending trill-riff spiral staircase of “Fiend for Corpses,” Undeath are engaged in a nonstop sprint for most of the 35 minutes on their sophomore album, administering a concise and concentrated fix of death metal at its most potent and perversely satisfying.
On tracks like “Rise from the Grave,” complete with accompanying zombie-flick video, Undeath employ the guitar-and-bone crunch of death metal as vessel for genuine hooks that transcend genre. It’s unmistakably death metal, descended from the lineage of Morbid Angel and Obituary, but they push the melody forward even while keeping its guttural sensibility intact. It harbors the same kind of righteous, screwed-up-face endorphin-rush experienced while catching a band like Carcass on Headbanger’s Ball for the first time, and with a memorably campy clip to match. With “Necrobionics,” drummer Matt Browning goes straight for the gallop on a blast that’s less outwardly anthemic but no less immediate, while “Funeral Within” is a nonstop barrage of riff-driven violence. All of them choice cuts of old-school death metal with a sensibility that could appeal to the merely death metal curious; if asked for a place to start with contemporary death metal, it’s highly tempting to simply direct all inquiries here.
There’s an abundance of that “dumb fun” of death metal that I alluded to earlier on It’s Time…To Rise From the Grave, which naturally requires something of a sense of gallows humor to fully appreciate. Jones embraces the grotesque in the lyrics he grumbles, bellows and roars on songs like “Head Splattered in Seven Ways,” a title so cartoonishly gross it’s hard not to be at least a little impressed. But the band’s songwriting and instincts for building out the structures of their menacing rippers into something more ornate and artful pays off brilliantly here, whether on the vicious groove of “Bone Wrought” or the eerie minor-key chorus of “Human Chandelier.” It’s Time…To Rise From the Grave is everything a death metal album should be—aggressive, abrasive, intense, disgusting—and that’s only the baseline for the kind of masterful carnage Undeath have wrought.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.