Death Engine offered a great surprise in their short debut Amen. Over the course of four acute and heavy songs they’ve begun forming their voice and it is loud and ragged.
They speak in a similar, if distant dialect to that Amenra, Chromes, and Children of God have harnessed and separate themselves on this little sledgehammering record comfortably, resurrecting small gasps of ambiance and old US metallic hardcore for their chugging sludge vessel.
Europe (particularly France, the Netherlands and the immediate neighbors) has curated for a good time now a thriving blackened sludge-hardcore sound; and it is not a new experimentation of course. It veers slightly from the German driven dark hardcore, recent examples like Planks, Perth Express, Alpinist, or Black Freighter which I also enjoy.
It has like a lot of sounds increased in frequency the last few years with a handful of North American acts augmenting it further (e.g. YAITW), and there has been some very successful crossovers like the German Unru (
which will be reviewed soon review here). There’s no doubt I enjoy this style but recently there’s not been much even from the big ones that excite me as the past pillars.
I already mentioned Unru, YAITW have been consistently impressive though the two recent splits were a little lacking, and I wouldn’t count Amera those who’s recent albums fell a little flat with me. I’m waiting to see what Nesseria steps up with or perhaps Quartier Rouge as those two have strong sounds in this genre as well.
On the flip side I did not spend much time with Celeste’s new one nor did I find Reka’s recent split material as cathartic as their last record. I’m cracking open the new Hexis and it’s pretty good though the first few shorter releases felt more aggressive.
So I was delighted when I gave Death Engine’s little EP Amen a chance and it showed me that there’s still some things to get excited about broiling within those darker corners of the continent’s hazy scene.
They put this out on a black 10″ record on three great labels (North Cult Records, Throatruiner Records, Basement Apes Industries) as well as both a handmade CD and the tape press from the generous Tapes of A Neon God. The first one I obtained was the last one but I grew familiar with it through their bandcamp prior to these two presses.
In terms of the band, they’re a three piece from eastern France that seem to keep a lot of their shit under-wraps. Not uncommon. This is their first record and they’re pretty young which makes this first hefty, soot-covered cinder block of a record that they’ve hurled pretty significant for them.
And while the slab is a conservative one in size it shouldn’t be underestimated. The weight is there and felt concretely.
Amen doesn’t cave my mind in like Amenra’s material does though they’re clearly digging their own texture canyons that strike a different nerve, and like them haunt a core grouping of riffs and rhythms to express themselves.
There are some connections in their sound and how they wield it both interpret doom and hardcore with different results — the difference being the mixture here relies slightly more on an underbelly of what might be ’90’s metalcore with a splash of whatever you could attribute Hexis’ formula to.
It’s not as overblown though and that makes them stand out a little more as they make space between a lot of parallel thinking. Their approach in this sense displaces the churning doom with an angular, metallic scar very effectively at key points. In others the quasi-post-rock element is pronounced — as Reka does so nicely.
Getting into the first side then we start with ‘No Hope’ which offers the first wave of withered grooves. Creaking and groans of feedback interrupt the wails of both the guitar and vocalist, the boisterous bass licks tumbling underneath but not being missed.
As the steady beat carries on the tone changes slightly with atmospheric indulgence clicking up, after a clunky break in the middle. One channel draws up the feedback for one rotation and then shreds the riff in tremolo form, while the groove in the other holds out only so long before following suit. It ends with certainty in an abrupt manner after this quick increase in intensity.
This carries over quite nicely into the next song ‘Dallas’ which turns up the blast a bit, leading with a twangy atmospheric harcore foot and locking into a steady sway. It’s a little dark leaning at first but by the time you’re rounding the first minute there’s a bit of ethereal undercurrent to it, and then near the end the tide of Hexis-like dark tremolos consumes things in whirring mist.
Now ‘Gun’, the last song on this side, strikes me as Curl Up And Die in slow motion and is one of the reasons I went off above about all that. It’s felt a little in the two prior tracks but not as strongly as here. After the feedback the guitar and screaming ramps up and breaks through — scraping and stuttering effects lace the guitars periodically breeding a very ceremonial vibe with the drums martialling forward as they do here.
Their name helps describe what’s heard here: the shuttering and falling apart of a worn machine’s core, debris sloughing off with each stumble. As this one moves on it’s more distanced from that ’90’s vibe and returns to the blackened aspects, merging those scrapes in one more time before ending with the remaining pounding, isolated drums.
On the last side is the final song ‘Amen’. Here is where we get saturated with Death Engine’s sparkling atmospheric assault and it’s got a distinct Tides vibe it sinks into at multiple points (specifically the opening track from their debut). Between those shining moments the plunge is ashen and murky.
In each instance however the steady percussion and bass guide strongly, with minor aberrations. And in the middle as the building begins again from a quiet, bassy rest, the sudden drop to floating static, loops, cymbals, and feedback is unexpected. There was plenty of room for them to drive it forward but an interesting choice to noise it up a bit at the end.
Overall Death Engine’s Amen resonated strongly with me and escaped direct pigeon-holing fairly well even when entering these crowded waters. This is a promising debut which I’m coming back to quite a lot since I was introduced last year.
Support these guys. It’s a small but promising shard of dark hardcore I’d be interested in seeing expanded on.
I have two of three versions of this record, as displayed above. You would do well to grab either from great labels like Tapes Of A Neon God, Throatruiner, Halo of Flies, North Cult Records, Basement Apes Industries, or on their bandcamp as well.