Profane Death Exodus by Diabolic Oath

Release date: June 26, 2020
Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories

Profane Death Exodus is the debut album from death metallers Diabolic Oath, who hail from Portland, Oregon. Death metal is undergoing something of a revival at the moment, and coverage on Echoes and Dust in recent weeks has included highly complementary reviews of albums by Ulthar and Living Gate, for example. These are bands that are taking the sonic template established by the genre’s instigators in the late 80s and early 90s and using it as their base to create something new, but firmly recognisable: no-nonsense, heads-down death metal. Enter now Diabolic Oath, whose debut is a very dense affair and fits perfectly into this picture. The mix of pummelling drums, tight, frenzied guitars and threefold vocals creates a textured album that doesn’t let up from the first beat.

Nuanced it ain’t. Some modern death metal bands, also well worth following at the moment, who take a more progressive approach to their craft – the likes of Ulcerate and Inter Arma – bring a variety of influences to their sound, creating light and shade. In contrast, Diabolic Oath have taken the left-hand path. They considered the progressive option and thought, “nah”, and chose the darkness.

The result gives the listener 40 minutes in which to either escape the daily grind or contemplate the end of times. It’s complex, freeform extreme metal that unapologetically never strays far from the sonic path set out on the first track ‘Towards Exalted Coronation’. From there it’s an infernal maelstrom with obscure song titles, such as ‘Immaculate Conjuration of Infernal Recrudescence’ (no, me neither). All three members of the band contribute to the vocals, and the threefold voices – that’s three kinds of coarse, gruff, guttural vocalisation, often together, or in rapid succession – add to the complexity of the material. The drumming is dense, precise and powerful throughout. It adds immensely to the heaviness and power of each track. We’re told that the bass and lead guitars played by the band are fretless. On the whole, I couldn’t tell the difference, but there are the occasional flourishes where you can spot the notes sliding along the fretboard, such as the searing, opening riff on album highlight, ‘Opening the Gates to Blasphemic Domination’, which intones like a bell. Otherwise the guitar sound is dense and there are very few solos, which fits the bleakness of the sonic attack and adds to the wall of noise created by the band. There are occasional slower passages, such as on ‘Emundationem Flammae’ (which I’m guessing means cleansing fire) and ‘Apocryphal Manifestations’, with its brief, atmospheric opener, but on the whole the death exodus marches on and crushes all in its path.

The complexity of Diabolic Oath’s aural craft is hard to fathom at first. It takes a few listens to pick it all apart and really get to know the album. A dense and harrowing experience that takes no prisoners. Enjoy the ride.

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