Album: Living Tomb
Label: 20 Buck Spin
Genre: Death Metal
Country: United States of America
Release Date: February 1st, 2019
Hailing from the bizarro hub of the world, Portland, Oregon, Ossuarium are a four-piece death metal group; in 2017 they made their scar upon the underground with an outstanding demo, Calcified Trophies of Violence. 20 Buck Spin brings us the full-length with an immense amount hype built up around the band; the demo was a blend of filthy death metal interspersed with doom at the perfect moment. Living Tomb is a 40-minute answer to the question most had after listening to the demo; how are they possibly going to top this?
Ossuarium are Ryan Koger on drums, Jeff Roman on bass, Nate McCleary on lead guitar, and Daniel Kelley on vocals and guitar; together they create an album that went above and beyond my expectations. Living Tomb is death metal in line with acts such as Krypts, Blood Incantation, Tomb Mold, and Atavisma; not derivative of those groups, but instead standing along-side these new titans of the sub-genre. The album is filled with slower doom segments, and still able to speed up the music to utterly decimate everything in the vicinity; the handling of the plodding parts is noteworthy in how they manage to remain interesting within the moderately repetitive nature of the form.
The heavy low-end Ossuarium debuted on their demo carries over and goes even further; the production and the bass roll over you like cement before the drums pummel and fracture everything into dust. Jeff Roman creates bass lines that anchor the songs deep below the dirt and generate the momentum the guitars steer; more than a few sections go beyond this and are memorable in their own right. Ryan Koger handles the drums, similar to his compatriots, like someone who has been confidently doing this for decades. The drums are spot on and hammering, no matter the tempo, every riff is driven down with a thunderous pound or crash.
Guitars are handled by Nate McCleary on lead and Daniel Kelley, when he isn’t hellishly growling; between riffs that either slice or sledgehammer, this is heavy and harmful death metal. There are moments of superb solos that are well placed and paced; solos in this kind of death metal run the risk of ruining the atmosphere and feeling of the rotten and dirty music surrounding it. Ossuarium artfully avoid that issue with solos that don’t feel out of place and don’t overstay their welcome. Daniel Kelley’s low sulfur fumes masquerading as vocals come straight from the bowels of the earth and reverberate across the inside of your skull. Whenever I want to listen to this style of death metal and a new player emerges, I’m sold instantly if they have this vocal style, as no others even compare.
Every song on this album could easily be highlighted for different parts, but in the interest of brevity, I’ll chop that down to three. The first I’d like to mention is Vomiting Black Death, this song had me checking just which track I was listening to the most often; so many sections in this song impressed me with how well done and dynamic they were. The way they hold an odd melody through-out one of the slow-downs really stood out as a memorable moment on the first listen; the solo in the latter half of the song, like I mentioned above, expertly walks the tight rope this entire band balances on. Writhing in Emptiness is my favorite song on the album primarily due to the hallucinatory shift that comes about half-way in; following a soaring solo, the song becomes an open and more epic sounding piece as somber guitars paint the backdrop, and then a dizzying solo returns us to brutality and closes the track. The final one I’d like to highlight is the closer, End of Life Dreams and Visions Pt. 2, and once again a use of a more open sound surrounded by oppressively heavy metal pays off; this track is filled with everything that makes this band worthwhile of your time and manages to close out the album in a great way.
Living Tomb is the first truly great death metal release I’ve heard this year. I really don’t find any faults in the music at all, and I can’t think of a single moment across the 40-minute runtime that I didn’t fully enjoy. My only reason for not gilding it with the 10 is it is lacking that indefinable quality that ranks something as an instant album of the year contender. This is an outstanding release from still rising death metal greats. They made me a fan with the demo, but I am completely sold on their future after Living Tomb.
- Blaze of Bodies
- Vomiting Black Death
- Corrosive Hallucinations
- Writhing in Emptiness
- End of Life Dreams and Visions Pt. 1
- Malicious Equivalence
- End of Life Dreams and Visions Pt. 2
Total Playing Time: 40:25