Holland's death metal leaders GOREFEST returned to form with 2005's excellent "La Muerte", a disc that didn't get nearly enough attention on this side of the Atlantic (as has been the case with their entire career, really). The inimitable bellow of Jan-Chris De Koeyer, the leaden heaviness of the guitars coupled with surprising moments of melody and finesse, Ed Warby's underrated drumming — it was all on fine display with "La Muerte", ushering GOREFEST right back into the ranks of active and vital death metal bands on the world scene.
It should be no surprise, given the band's uniformly excellent back catalog (and say what you will about their mid-'90s rock experiments, they hold up damn well today), that GOREFEST has sustained the level of quality into their second post-comeback album. The opening salvo of "Revolt", with its bone-basic riffing and thrash tempo, is a shot of adrenaline that sets things up in fine style for the malevolent mid-tempo stomp of the title track (with a double-bass-propelled verse that rolls like a Sherman tank).
And how come so few people talk about the doomy tinges GOREFEST add to their music? Listen to the beginning of "The War on Stupidity" for a majestic, harmonic intro, one that'll make those oft-cited hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Of course, it crashes immediately into a blast-beat frenzy, but the point remains — these guys are so good at these incidental moments of atmosphere, it's scary. On the face of it, a band with a singer this overpowering and a penchant for huge wall-of-brick riffing should be a taxing, one-dimensional experience, but "Rise to Ruin" isn't like that at all. It's a dynamic and thrilling slab of death metal, infectiously catchy, yet it remains as brutal as the band's fifteen-year-old signature work.
Just pick apart "The End of It All" for a microcosm of why GOREFEST is so damn good – there's a killer slow brooding part to open, a vicious mechanized riff that gets the song fast, and then a blast-beat frenzy with De Koeyer roaring over it in his voice-of-doom bellow. Then there's this totally epic, rock-derived closer with amazing guitar work, which leads back into the beginning part again and sets you up for the big finish. It's a meticulously crafted song without showing off, and it delivers both the visceral bludgeon of the best death metal and the more rarefied thrills of a band unafraid to delve further into the past for its inspiration.
In short, GOREFEST still have yet to make a bad record, and "Rise to Ruin" is a fucking monster. They show it's possible to carve out your own niche within the limited palette of death metal without sacrificing what makes the genre great, and they rock like motherfuckers in the process. (Tracks 10 and 11 are apparently USA bonus tracks, although their label's site only lists nine song titles.)