Swe-Death with a Few SurprisesUsurpress is a Swedish death metal band who are actually from Sweden. A statement like that should both pique your interest (Swe-death!) and put you on guard (oh, more Swe-death?).
Most bands of the Swe-death variety tend to pigeonhole themselves into one facet of that sound. Not so for Usurpress on Trenches of the Netherworld. They employ the gruff vocals and buzzsaw tone in a variety of different ways, from the more straight-forward sounds of Entombed/Dismember/etc., to D-beat, to a doomy sort of Autopsy on HM-2.
Yet exploring every facet of the style (and tossing in a Warrior grunt) wasn't enough for these guys. A few times, they do some weird stuff. Distorted clean vocals show up for "Coronation of the Crippled King." Another clean-ish vocal style shouts the title phrase of "The Wooden Sceptre." Some kind of fiddle makes a prominent appearance during the intro to "Dethroned by Shadows," which might have seemed too out of place if they didn't blend it so well with the opening riff--and the song didn't end up being the highlight of the record. (More, please.)
The production is exactly what you expect from old-school Swe-death, i.e., not too clean and not too rough. The sound is, in other words, just right. Perhaps more importantly, they've mastered pacing and economy. Every song on the record is finished in under 4 minutes, and they know how to change up what they're doing often enough to maintain interest throughout the perfect 34 minute runtime. That's even more impressive considering this is only their first full-length.
This is a must-have for die-hard fans of the style. Even if you only buy one Swe-death album this year, Trenches of the Netherworld would be a fine selection.
The Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars