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Deathstench - Massed in Black Shadows [Black Plague Records - 2012]

Massed in Black Shadows is the 2012 release from Los Angeles’ Deathstench.  Formed in 2009, members include John Paul Whetzel and Darea Plantin (both of Pro-Death and The Slaughtered Lamb); their music is described as occult black ambient.  While that’s a good description, you could throw influences of power electronics and raw black metal too.

Most of the songs here are a shade lengthy as they clock in 8-12 minutes, starting with “Extraction Ex Infernis” the gauntlet is thrown down for a din of echoing static and fuzzy noise.  This is interspersed with distorted vocals over the repetitive, cavernous sounds; it’s a shaky beginning and not too memorable but things show promise on “Corpse Upon a Throne of Wyrms”.  All those afore mentioned static and noise are over shadowed by guitar chords that add to the anxious feeling.  This is capped off with screaming vocals, sounding quiet disembodied and perfect.  The next two songs “Symbols in Warm Flesh” and “Circle of Black Blood” are more of the same; mainly manipulated and sputtering static, screeching vocals and dissonant chords.  The same can be said for “Bastards of the Black Flame” with its mechanical humming, crackling sounds and raspy vocals.  Not that these songs are bad, they just are monotonous. 

Yet all that is forgiven with “Shrine of Viscera” this track alone makes Massed in Black Shadows worth the price of admission.  Yes it still has that din of noise and static, but it dives into guitars, drums and harsh vocals and delivers a wonderfully bombastic atmosphere that was so sorely missing on the above songs.  Dark, violent and malevolent, it ends with a crash of symbols and echoing vocals.  Let’s note too that the vocals here (and throughout Massed in Black Shadows) are quiet interesting and reminiscent of Arioch of Funeral Mist and Atilla of Mayhem.  The voice is treated as if it’s another instrument to be used in the harshest and most expressive way, from screeching to rasps to whispers.
That said Massed in Black Shadows was a slight let down in the atmosphere department, especially after hearing the brilliance of “Shrine of Viscera”.  By all means it is an ok release; and as time has passed they have 3 other releases since this one.  There is a wicked spark here that needs developing but what a spark it is.

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Viktorya Kaufholz
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