Supergroups – perhaps the most oft-overused phrase when it comes to bands that just happen to feature members from other bands. Especially within the incredibly diverse metal scene, where a “supergroup” seems to spring up every few days. The Lurking Fear are one such group, boasting members notably of Gothenburg heavyweights At The Gates and fellow melodic death metallers The Haunted, come to unleash their debut album Out of the Voiceless Grave on us all.
At the top of the press release sits a quote from Tomas Lindberg (At The Gates, as if he needs any introduction) – “You always find the time to do something if you’re inspired”, a quote that ostensibly all bands, not just supergroups, should attempt to live up to, and a mission statement that certainly rings true for The Lurking Fear. Taking their name from the classic H.P. Lovecraft story, the group deftly lace together breakneck speed, some serious aggression and melodeath elements to form a punishing soundscape that makes for an enthralling debut by some of Swedish metal’s finest.
Opener and title track ‘Out of the Voiceless Grave’ is, in fact, an instrumental opener, building suspense with some psychological horror-esque strings, befitting of the group’s namesake, at which point ‘Vortex Spawn’ proceeds with all the subtlety of a brick to the head. The song briefly abates for a time, as if to catch breath, but screams back to full speed very quickly, balancing slow menace and bludgeoning, punishing speed. This speed is true of a great many of the album’s twelve tracks, but each feels balanced, such as with third track ‘The Starving Gods of Old’ which moves from thrashing assault to a titanic groove, then back again and ‘With Death Engraved In Their Bones’ employs an almost doom-y crawl in parts, slowing down to a near glacial pace to flatten all in its path.
Tomas and co. seem hellbent on not overstaying their welcome too, with the album clocking in at just over 42 minutes and no track hitting the five-minute mark (although closer ‘Beneath Menacing Sands’ is close at 4:59). This, then, is an album truly designed with the spirit of old-school death metal in mind; get in, lay waste, and leave before anyone knows what the hell just happened. Drawing influence from Autopsy, Morbid Angel and early Death, Out of the Voiceless Grave spends its runtime thrashing, crashing, bludgeoning, occasionally crawling and even less frequently employing brief instrumental passages such as middle track ‘Upon Black Winds’.
Frankly, though, despite the slower passages and the variety of riffs on display, the album can start to suffer from blending issues; some tracks seem to simply blend together and distinguishing moments don’t come perhaps as often as they should, such as the guitar solo in ‘Teeth of the Dark Plains’ and the song structure can start to seem formulaic with most tracks employing an open-fast-slower-fast-end approach that belies the massive amount of talent contained within the line-up. It seems a shame this is the case given the obvious talent on display across the five members.
Production-wise the album avoids the low-fi approach, preferring the more usual melodeath approach, pushing the caustic screams of Tomas Lindberg and the twin axe assault of Jonas Stålhammar and Fredrik Wallenberg to the fore. The bass is more felt than heard, and Adrian Erlandsson, whilst needing no introduction, has his drumming relegated squarely to the middle of the mix. It works, and no one instrument overpowers another.
Overall, Out of the Voiceless Grave is an opening salvo worthy of its members’ pedigrees, deftly balancing speed with skull crushing heaviness, a balance not easily found and one that indicates a band with a lot of promise.
Highlights: The Starving Gods of Old, Teeth of the Dark Plains, Beneath Menacing Sands