Church of the Dead
Beyond Death

Man, I don’t know what it is with some of these small European countries. How are they able to produce such great metal? Take Finland for example, be it doom, death, black metal, or anything in between, and you can bet your sweet ass that there is a Finnish master of it. So I guess it should come as no surprise that Finland’s Church of the Dead and their sophomore full-length album, Beyond Death, can touch upon and blend all of these genres together, within their own framework, and have it sound somewhat fresh and original.

Make no bones about it, Church of the Dead is most definitely a death metal band. Yet you would have to have shit in your ears if you can’t hear the sinister inklings of a doomed and blackened nature, slithering just underneath the skin. Rearing itself ever so slightly at times, and at others, heavy-handedly. If the brilliance of bands such as Hooded Menace, Vore, Entombed, Temple of Void, and old-school Witchery being swirled together in a batch of influential stew sounds appealing to you, then Beyond Death is sure to provide a feast worthy of engorgement.

After the very soft spoken words, I’m a nobody, the opening track, “Dawn of the Wizard” wastes little time in bringing the heavy, as huge chords and drums of mighty fortitude announce their arrival. The track is a mid-paced crusher that is just pummelling in its more reserved nature of groove and heft as opposed to blazing, speedy chaos. The song is a clever girl, seemingly safe or dare I say simple, yet there are really a lot of little things going on that work so well in coming together as a whole, plus bits of melody and some nice lead guitar work overlayed on some Charles Manson dialogue is an added bonus for sure. Hell, those cavernous vocals of Jussi Salminen sound so sick, doubled up and roaring out the words helter-skelter, conjuring up the vibe of L.G. Petrov; not necessarily in sound, but in authoritative stature. It doesn’t hurt either when musically, that scorching splendor of Entombed influence comes charging in at the 2:51 mark, ushering in that previous lead I just mentioned. Good shit, I tell you.

“Tombdweller” establishes itself early on as an album highlight. The track’s atmosphere mixed with an undeniably catchy and crushing aplomb is simply stellar. It’s like Witchery and Enslaved joined forces with Vore to produce some rocking, blackened frayed death metal that takes zero fucking prisoners. “Whore of Eden” is another sure-to-be favorite track with its speedy nature and punkish, d-beat structure at the forefront of the song. A blastbeat barrage takes over pushing the track into more extreme fields before coming back into that more open aired vibe from earlier. Though I can definitely get the punk influence in these parts, it’s here where I tend to catch vibes of that classic Witchery sound, back when Sharlee D’Angelo had joined the band and gave them that flair of rocking the fuck out to their already slaying death-thrash.

Beyond Death closes things out with “Floating in Blood”, which, once again, really touches on the band’s doomier and more blackened influences amidst their death crush. The group manages to pull out some quality Greecian black metal melodies, à la Rotting Christ, while continuing to drive and pummel, never letting you forget that Church of the Dead is a death metal band first. Having said that, the atmosphere they capture is fantastic, with the song ending as it began.

Throwing in a ripping cover of Mayhem‘s “Chainsaw Gutsfuck” in the middle of the album’s tracklist initially seemed an odd choice to me, but the cover works so well amongst the band’s sound and bookended with their own kick-ass original material, that it would seem like a missed opportunity if they hadn’t placed it in the middle. Another stellar attribute to CotD and Beyond Death is the wonderful mixture of the bass and guitars working so well with each other. They give the feeling of needing one another and it would no doubt be detrimental to the band’s sound and atmosphere if that bass presence was taken away or not heard.

Beyond Death was my first experience with Church of the Dead. No bias, no expectations already formed to cloud my judgment. Just a pure and natural response and take on what turned out to be quite a great record. With the number of times that I have revisited Beyond Death, I’m sure that it will be found in my favorite albums of this year. Give it a chance friends, and no doubt, it will be amongst your favorites of the year as well.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Kristofor Allred
June 22nd, 2023

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