Manchester, so much to answer for...Yup, despite that Madchester bollocks - a blight on the eardrums and a boon for dealers of home-made pharmaceuticals – Manchester, with pockets deep with depravation has always been a magnet for the gloomy stuff. From Joy Division to The Smiths lyrically, and through to more recent exponents of the heavy stuff like Winterfylleth and Caïna and Swinelord and countless others around the Greater Manchester, there's always a steady torrent of bile sloshing around. A typical nasty exponent of this misery is Burial, a black metal power trio perfect for these times: claustrophobic, chilling and powerful.
Their mode is very simple: take a heaping of Immortal, a heaping of Darkthrone and strangle it until it's ultratight and you have the formula. Big deal you say, plenty of bands do that, and you'd be right. At the last count, the lower end of the estimates put the number of black metal bands at about 666 per square inch, all them crowding the same sonic space. So, like the top tier bands, how do Burial lift themselves out of this mire for something worthy of your attention? Simple, by distilling down everything to those core influences, and then throwing in a bit more. Burial, in fact, shares members with blackened d-beat merchants Wolfbastard – so maybe if you want a genre tag for 'Satanic Upheaval', it would be “encrusted black metal”. Unlike the clunky phraseology that's just been heaped on it, 'Satanic Upheaval' is super slick stuff – if that's something you can say about a genre that's inherently ugly as sin, but that's exactly how it describes opener 'Encircled By Wolves'; it cracks hell wide open with an unyielding blast beat and riff that couldn't be any colder if it served you divorce papers while you were at your parents' funeral. Also, they must have sacrificed a particularly fine goat before they went into the studio, as you can actually hear a bass guitar without spraining your neck straining your ear. They also have an appreciation for song writing, in the sense that sheer relentless attack can only get you so far, and along with the aforementioned turning up of bass to add more texture, they can vary their tortured tempos just a tad. It comes to a head on 'Hellish Reaping Screams', which combines the finest tremolo picking along with swinging ice cold verse dropped in speed but no less menacing. Going in the other way, 'Destruction Absolute' starts off vicious and then pushes itself extra hard as it contorts its speedfest to grind.
It's a fine discipline that they have here, and one that lifts them up and away – or more accurately, deeper into the bowels of Hell – as they have something different going on with nearly every song like 'Devour Your Soul' having manic changes that keep you hooked in. Make no mistake though, this isn't a complete revolution of black metal – they do have a heaping of the traditional stuff like 'Decayed From Time' or 'Barren Lands' being as traditional and nihilistic as they come, and if you're not a fan of the black stuff already, this may not be the epiphany that'll turn your soul to Satan. But make no mistake, and not just thanks to a gargantuan production job, this improves vastly on Burial's previous works. A monolithic and monochrome work from three guys who have a wry understanding of what makes this genre special.
'Satanic Upheaval' is out now on Apocalyptic Witchcraft