Monday, February 14, 2011

Dragged into Sunlight: Hatred for Mankind (2009)


This is the perfect album for Valentine's Day, as you can no doubt guess from the cover art. I can say without any hesitation that Dragged into Sunlight's debut album was the most brutal album released in 2009. Their name makes me think of one of the most brutal vampire movies ever, John Carpenter's excellent Vampires, where the bloodsuckers are shot with a crossbow and violently dragged by winch into the sun, where they explode into flame. And these are not pussy, sparkly vampires either. These vampires are kvlt. Just like the gentlemen in Dragged into Sunlight.

Hatred for MankindHatred for Mankind combines every kind of extreme you could possibly think of, starting with a base of sludge/deathgrind and adding elements of black metal, doom, deathcore, and even drone. It sounds as if these Liverpudlians were raised in the dark, on a steady diet of Incantation, Eyehategod, Napalm Death, and snippets of TV news about the worst sins of mankind. The vocals absolutely seethe with rage, including death growls and black metal screeches. The voice samples actually seem to work, being an integral part of their sound.

Opener "Boiled Angel" sets the stage, beginning with heavy, aggressive sludge and a voice sample. It switches to New York death metal-like mid-paced fare with constant bass drum, then they throw in some grind leads. Then they let the feedback ring out on the guitar while bass drives it forward, along with voice samples, before moving back into sludge territory. The whole album is essentially like this, moving from one territory to another, such as the slow sludge, to black metal blast beats and tremolo riffing, to badass breakdown on "Lashed to the Grinder and Stoned to Death".

And they manage to do all of it without seeming like it's stitched together. They never find themselves wholly in one genre or another, but rather all of them are present more or less all the time, and one riff might be more in one camp than another. The tempo changes often, but effortlessly, and all of it flows.

The production is a bit flawed, however. When they hit their noisiest and most brutal moments, the recording gets blown out. It's not terrible, but it can be distracting. They also could have done without the last two tracks. While they're not afraid to write long songs (highlight "Volcanic Birth" goes over 9 minutes), they do it well when they stick with what they do best. On the other hand, "I, Aurora" is over 11 minutes, and seems to have a more epic structure and feel. But they just can't seem to pull it off. And drone closer "Totem of Skulls" doesn't really add anything. Still, if you drop these you still have a 34 minute exercise in brutality.

The Verdict: This is an extremely impressive and innovative debut, with the most brutal sound I've heard in quite some time. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

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