Landmine Marathon
Gallows

Landmine Marathon is a band I’ve always loved on paper. Stylistically, the world needs a band like them. That is to say, a younger band to take on the no-frills metal battery style that Nihilist, Bolt Thrower (and many other early Earache Records bands) helped pioneer close to 20 years ago, balancing groove with grind, while completely ignoring the contemporary trends. Fortunately, the Arizona five-piece have drawn closer than ever to this ideal on their newest full-length Gallows.

One of the immediate differences from their previous album, Sovereign Descent, is the production. The edges, especially of the guitars, have been sharpened with great success, allowing them to slice through the mix better and when they crunch, they crunch harder. This highlights the fact, that guitarists Dylan Thomas and Ryan Butler are great riff-smiths, able to create riffs that are barbaric as much as they are memorable. When played side-by-side, Sovereign Descent might be a little thicker sounding, but the clarity of the new album wins out, and fortunately the aforementioned “sharpened” edge of the production doesn’t mean it’s compressed or overly processed – in fact, it retains a credible rawness and live feel.

After the production upgrade sinks in, it will also become clear that their songwriting has improved greatly as well. The quality of riffs is top-notch, but the arrangement of them is what can make any song, start-to-finish, a cohesive force rather than just a hodge-podge of guitar riff salad. This idea ties in with my predominant love for the band (and why the world needs them): their sense of balance. There are a lot of styles and approaches happening here: deathmetal, grind, crusty hardcore, and more. And from these styles they temper pace (blastbeats to slow dirges), tremolo picking to beefy chugs, and catchy melodies to chaotic runs. No one style wins out – and that’s the beauty of their writing as well as a nod to their influences. With that range of styles and their respective sub-set of approaches, Landmine Marathon are able to weave a mosaic that deftly merges all of the aforementioned qualities into a singular body of work.

The one area I’m pretty picky about is drumming, and on Gallows I do wish the drumming would be a little tighter overall. I appreciate that it sounds very live and very human, but there are moments where it sounds like the blasts could use some steroids to help keep up. However, it does lend to the energy of most songs when you can hear that the speed and endurance of the band is being pushed into the red, so I’m ultimately left with some mixed feelings there. But again, just being picky.

The album’s opener, “Three Snake Leaves”, is a great rubric for the rest of the album – a melting pot of the band’s influences set to ‘Frappé’, complete with a great melodic lead at about the halfway point, and then all spat at the listener with ferocity. Another stand-out, and credit to their improved writing prowess, is the catchy chorus from “Cutting Flesh And Bone” where vocalist Grace Perry repeatedly shouts, “Beg for your punishment!” – I actually found myself singing it while around the house, so it’s definitely sing-along approved. One prime example of their great sense of balance comes in the form of “Knife From My Sleeve”, opening up with it’s doom-like riff and pacing (almost bordering into My Dying Bride territory if it weren’t for Perry’s harsh vocals laid over top), before erupting into death-thrash riffage and a great trade-off of vocals between Perry and Bassist Matt Martinez, barking back and forth like rabid demons having a spat.

It’s universally understood that there is nothing new under the sun musically. It’s also accepted that when a band can channel their inspirations through their craft in a new way it is a success. Landmine Marathon prove both things on Gallows, and hopefully they’ll fill that gap/stake their claim as the Bolt Thrower of a new generation, skillfully melding various extremities and styles of metal with vitality.

 

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Stacy Buchanan
November 7th, 2011

Comments

  1. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    haha, their guitarist is named Dylan Thomas.


  2. Commented by: Larry "Staylow" Owens

    I need to spend some more time with this one. I enjoyed it the two times I spun it, but haven’t gone back since. Nice review.


  3. Commented by: Stacy B.

    That was my experience when reviewing it, couple quick throughs and I dug it – but nothing really “stuck”, so I listened a couple more times and really starting feeling it. THANK YOU!


  4. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Not even Mortician need to worry about LM usurping their run-of-the-mill, mediocre death metal throne. Genre luminaries such as Nihilist or the mighty Bolt Thrower have nothing to fear. :P


  5. Commented by: elguerosinfe

    Didn’t like this at all. Got zero Bolt Thrower vibe.


  6. Commented by: Stacy B.

    Bolt Thrower’s vibe is “War War War” – so in that sense, no, their vibe isn’t war-based. The Bolt Thrower comparison is drawn specifically to their melting pot of extreme metal styles (grind, groove, crust, etc.) into an inseparable mass. This is more broad-based than a singular vibe… if you want Bolt Thrower vibe, I suggest you crank some Hail Of Bullets :)


  7. Commented by: Cynicgods

    I don’t hear this melting pot you speak of at all. I just hear extremely average chugga chugga death metal. An apt comparison would be Jungle Rot. In other words: boring. Back to hearing new platters from Deceased, Desultory and Autopsy for my dm fix.


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