Severe Torture

Sworn Vengeance

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At the start of their career, Holland's Severe Torture seemed to care more about grossing out their listeners (à la Cannibal Corpse) than wowing them with high grade death metal, but they've come a long way since then, as their fifth album, Sworn Vengeance is sure to prove. Here, the band continues on their march towards tightly regimented instrumental brutality, having relinquished much of the unchecked savagery of those gore-obsessed early efforts and shifted their lyrical focus towards much more refined, real life cynicism and all-purpose misanthropy, to boot. In other words, there's a lot less blood spraying in every direction, but even more legitimate emotional catharsis to be found in odious, high-speed assaults such as "Serenity Torn Asunder," "Fight Something," and "Dogmasomatic Nausea." These tend to bask in the punishing technicality of, say, Immolation without going overboard into Morbid Angel exotica, but death metal fans with a hankering for actual melody will have to shop elsewhere, since Severe Torture only mess with such fluff during their infrequent guitar solos, and the occasional disturbing harmony like that heard on the title track. Nevertheless, songwriting dynamism still prevails thanks to highlights such as "Countless Victims," which shifts the momentum with a memorable opening riff and slower temp, and the Sadus-like bass flurries introducing "Buried Hatchet," which also features guest gurgles from Misery Index's Jason Netherton and Born from Pain's Ché Snelting. Two cover songs -- the Cro-Mags' "It's the Limit" and Entombed's always terrifying "Eyemaster" -- wind down Sworn Vengeance's American edition with more fireworks than would the unspectacular instrumental "Submerged in Grief," but the overall result still makes for a very impressive album, recommended to those seeking brutal, take-no-prisoners death metal.

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