I hardly ever listen to brutal death metal; never a big fan, unless I'm presented with something unique that pushes the boundaries of the style's aesthetics. In most cases I find listening to this kind of bands an utter waste of time and effort. Rare are the albums in the brutal death metal department that ignite my interest and make me actually enjoy them, and frankly, I still haven't listened to anything as good as Suffocation's Effigy Of The Forgotten. Sue me.
Catarrhal's Fleshgrave is one of the very few I consider as worthy, and it begs further exploration, as it contains some of the vilest, most engaging and utterly effective sounds ascending from the murky, muddy, filthy soils of the current, brutal death metal underground.
Equipped with the right atmosphere and an intelligent songwriting approach, Fleshgrave is a beast of an album, played super tight, hyper-fast, and as professionally as it gets. Coupled with a super-massive, adequate production that is modern enough yet rooted deeply in the past, this musical brute - wild, dark and blasting - escapes almost every genre cliche: no ridiculous cookie monster belching vocals were used, nor does it exercise annoying slam / metalcore / deathcore breaks or groovy sections. Furthermore, the album does not succumb totally to heaviness for the sake of heaviness alone, at the expense of melody.
As ironic as it may seem, everything here is done with a certain degree of civilized moderation (relatively speaking), in comparison to the usual, brutal death metal paradigms: the vocalist is a middle of a road growler, the blast beats are sporadic if tight, the melody is definitely there and the whole charade is quite varied and well balanced. Those attributes are probably what makes this album flow so well and mark it as one of the finest offerings of 2013.
The album's highlights lie in its foreboding, bleak atmosphere and the songwriting capabilities of the band. Deep and dark ambiances generated by a blanket of vitriolic guitars, complemented by a wise choice of riffs, as well as some dissonant scales and some semi-oriental passages paying homage to the legacy of Death (the band) are noticeable for those who pay attention.
Monolithic and grand, Fleshgrave is a modern sonic artwork of calculated brutality that will satisfy even the most elitist cynics among you and would probably reignite your interest and passion for the most brutally effective sounds modern music has got to offer, where sinister frequencies converge with pure dejection and solemn cadaverous sentiments. It is a huge album of negativity and colossal hostility that is by no means deprived of melody, atmosphere and technical ability of the highest kind in regards to this form of death death.
I'd put this album on a pedestal together with last year's Embrional's release Absolutely Anti-Human Behaviors. Even though, as stated above, both albums do not display rigid, brutal, death metal aesthetics distinctive to this very style, they are so good that eventually no listener should care for this nonconformance to the guidelines of this or that sub-genre of metal. This album WILL blow your mind either way. (8/10)