By Nathanas Trismegistus

Revenge – Strike.Smother.Dehumanize; released May 22, 2020 by Season of Mist, or, rather, Season of Mist’s redundant and utterly insipid “Underground Activists” sub-label. Seriously, I’ll never understand the significance or necessity of the distinction. But who cares? A new Revenge album! Or, at least, that’s what all the milquetoast, wannabe-underground, crater-dome, knuckle-dragging, super-stratum-dwelling, superficial, bullet belt-wearing, battle vest-bedecked poseurs have been clamoring for. The fleeting, unwashed masses have flocked around Revenge for one, very simple reason. Their music – while, superficially, abrasive and brutal – is vague enough in the subject matter of its lyrical content to be socially acceptable or politically correct; and, therefore, marketable. That’s why bigger labels, like Season of Mist, are willing to publish their content. That’s why mainstream metal magazines and websites are willing to endlessly sing their praises.

Revenge needs no introduction. Every hack internet music critic knows who Revenge is at this point. But for the average Joe Q. Public who may have accidentally wandered onto my blog, I will give you a concise biography. From the ashes of Conqueror – a beloved, underground Canadian war metal band comprised of Blasphemy guitarist, Ryan Förster (AKA “Deathlord of Abomination and War Apocalypse”) and Cremation drummer, James Read – Revenge was formed by the latter, but without the former. Their musical styles are similar enough that one could consider Revenge the only legitimate spiritual successor to Conqueror. It should be noted that the same sentiment could also be expressed about Death Worship as it possesses the same line-up as Conqueror. What can I say? The Canadian war metal scene – or Ross Bay Cult – is very incestuous in that regard.

Revenge’s music can be broadly described as war metal, or black/death metal. It is aggressive, fast-tempo, stampede of blast-beats and grinding, low-tuned guitars. What distinguishes Revenge from your garden-variety war metal band is J. Read’s ridiculously skillful and idiosyncratic percussion. It’s like if Hellhammer filled less with his double bass and more with his toms. In fact, I suspect that Revenge has only managed to coast by on J. Read’s drumming prowess and clout alone.

The problem I have with Revenge is not that I think their music is terrible. It’s that they’ve outlived their relevance as a band—as artists. The same, I think, could be said, in general, about the Ross Bay Cult. The scene might as well be dead. It’s essentially on life-support, sustained solely by certain parties (not naming any names, but you know who you are) who wish to capitalize on nostalgia and dupe useful hipster idiots, who are into “retro”, “underground” music, into purchasing a repress of or merch for a 30-year old album. Blasphemy can’t write any new material. Conqueror no longer exists. Any new music must be released, for some reason, by a proxy band with a different name and tedious variations or combinations of old line-ups. And Revenge (you know, the subject of this review) has to release the same album over and over again. Granted, they did attempt to diversify their sound with 2012’s Scum.Collapse.Eradication; but, I think, by the time Behold.Total.Rejection came out, in 2015, people had finally just had enough. People just got sick of buying and listening to the same album repeatedly. Just looking at these album covers and layouts Revenge seem to have mastered the process of commodifying and industrializing their own content. Every album looks, feels, and sounds the same, like a good, familiar cookie-cutter product should. The sound is so consistent throughout their career, in fact, that I have to wonder if they’ve been using the exact same gear to record their music for the last two decades.

The only microscopic, exiguous difference I can glean from Strike.Smother.Dehumanize is that they’ve dialed back the terrible, repetitive solos. The frenetic, chromatic, atonal solos which are emblematic of the genre appear only infrequently throughout this album; and, instead of bare, overdriven tone, they seem to be oversaturated with a modulated filter this time around. J. Read’s drumming sounds even punchier in this album, but that can be merely attributed to slightly bumping up the ratio knob on the compressor or limiter during mixing.

So, how did I feel about the album? Meh. That’s it. It’s like depersonalizing, eyes glazed over, awash with the harsh sound of your drill instructor harshly berating you for your failures at boot camp. If you ask me, Revenge peaked with Infiltration.Downfall.Death and probably should have ended with Scum.Collapse.Eradiaction. If you’ve already listened to either of those albums, then you’ve already heard Strike.Smother.Dehumanize. I can’t recommend this album only because I don’t wish to condone this sort of behavior. It’s not bad. It’s not the total rejection of originality that is Behold.Total.Rejection and it is marginally better than Scum.Collapse.Eradication. I won’t lie, I did find myself banging my head along every now and then. I’m not immune to the allure of Revenge’s infectious grind. In the end, though, it’s just tired and overplayed. Strike.Smother.Dehumanize is no more essential than any of Revenge’s other albums.

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Written by Nathanas Trismegistus

Medico Peste – ב: The Black Bile; released March 20, 2020 by Season of Mist under their cringeworthy “Underground Activist” banner. Medico Peste, on the other hand, is not cringeworthy. Far from it. Their music will, however, provoke some measure of mental anguish in the listener. I’m not sure what the point of ordering their albums with letters of the Hebrew alphabet is (other than the obvious religious references). A lot of bands start out by ordering their albums with – typically – Roman numerals, but eventually discontinue the trend later in their career when they realize how pointless it is or when their musical style evolves. It is somewhat appropriate, however, in this instance as The Black Bile acts as a logical conclusion in the progression of Medico Peste albums, from their 2012 debut, א: Tremendum et Fascinatio, through to their 2017 EP, Herzogian Darkness. (I have never listened to their demo so I cannot comment.) It will certainly be interesting to see where they take their musical style next.

Medico Peste is composed, mostly, of live band members of Mgła. One member, the bassist (who certainly worked his ass off for this release), is in another excellent Polish band, Over the Voids…, which you should definitely check out. What I find puzzling is how the Metal Archives page for this band lists four different, current guitarists for Medico Peste. I’d have to get my hands on a physical copy with a booklet (assuming credits are even given) before I can confirm this, though. (And considering how crazy things are with shipping during this COVID-19 crisis, I can’t foresee securing a copy anytime in the near future.) Regardless, Medico Peste’s music bears almost no similarities with that of Mgła. Whereas Mgła deigns to flirt with beautifully-somber melodies, Medico Peste infects the listener with noxious, hideous, sickening dissonance (really appropriate for our current predicament). I would compare their style, maybe, more to the dissonant Icelandic/U.S. bands, such as Wormlust and Skaphe, or maybe even Voidcræft; but, especially, Deathspell Omega (particularly with the opening track). I tend to look at Medico Peste as Mgła’s manic-depressive, suicidal, schizophrenic little brother.

There is a notable increase in the number of musical breaks throughout this album, as opposed to their debut. Several of them are astonishingly catchy despite the progressive approach. In fact, this album is so progressive that I dare say it borders on jazz. The leap to more “progressive” elements reminds me a lot of the leap made by Craft back in 2018 with their obliquely self-aware release, White Noise and Black Metal. Most surprising of all, however, is how much emphasis is placed on the bass in this album. This might be one of those rare instances, in black metal, where the bass is incorporated very well into the musical composition. So, unsurprisingly, the composition of ב: The Black Bile is the big draw for me. The performances are all excellent. Production-wise, I have absolutely no qualms with this album. Everything sounds balanced, clear, pronounced, and amazing.

I meant to have this review up earlier; but, you know, things have been a little hectic as of late. After a couple listens, I have deemed Medico Peste’s ב: The Black Bile a worthy addition to the collection. Favorite tracks are “All Too Human”, “Numinous Catastrophy” (probably my absolute favorite), “Skin”, and the eponymous track. “Were Saviours Believers?” and “Holy Opium” were, in my opinion, the only weak tracks. I would definitely recommend this album, but (TRVE KVLT BE WARNED!) this is not your typical black metal affair. It definitely favors the progressive side of the black metal spectrum. I cannot, however, deem it essential. Though it was unconventional, lugubrious, atmospheric, and decrepit, it wasn’t mind-blowingly so. Nevertheless, if you managed to snatch up a copy before your city (or country) got locked down, definitely give it a spin. For the rest of you, it’s streaming for free on YouTube and Bandcamp. What else have you got to do? It’s a satisfying enough way to pass the time while you’re stuck under martial quarantine.

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