Straight out of Cleveland, Ohio, comes Kurnugia, playing a blistering, unapologetically old-school brand of death metal. With (ex-)members of Decrepit, Limbsplitter, Embalmer, Nunslaughter, December Wolves (to name a few), Forlorn and Forsaken marks the band’s first full-length album, after a couple of EPs in the 2010s. It’s a strong debut, staying away from over-complication or diluting the sound with modern technical/experimental influences. The result, then, is forty minutes of infectious, retro death metal that needs to be played loud.
The ominous intro (titled ‘Intro’) sounds like it could have been lifted from a horror movie soundtrack (maybe it was, I wish I knew!), before ‘To the Cursed Depths’ lacerates the speakers with some glorious old-school death metal riffage. With a frantic guitar solo that plays for effect rather than over-technicality, this song sets the scene for the rest of the record. It’s no-frills, doesn’t try to be the fastest, most difficult, most brutal. It’s pure death metal power; the songs are short, catchy and – importantly – sound like songs. ‘Crown of Suffer’ has a particularly memorable lead guitar line that injects a bit of melody into the sound and ‘Shroud of Damnation’ is full of delightfully evil riffs and vicious blastbeats.
The fantastically titled ‘Pervert the Pious’ starts off a little slower, with some atonal lead licks, before it frenetically picks up in intensity. The more extreme parts of this song are amongst the best moments of the record. ‘Thy Sanguine Altar’ really gets the neck snapping, and needs to be played live. I can only imagine the crowds going wild to this one. ‘All Consuming Grief’ has a few moments of melody amongst the ugly riffing, although this is tied into more furious blasting. The last two songs are the only tracks on the album to exceed four and a half minutes – this is a concise, compact set of songs, and works to its merit. They don’t drag, though. In fact, the riffage in ‘Decaying Serenades’ is amongst some of the darkest of the album and ‘When the Moment of Death Arrives’ has elements of vintage melodeath, and rounds off the album in an epic fashion.
Paul delivers a fantastic vocal performance throughout, making use of a low, guttural range for most of the album, although demonstrates a few shrieks to show the full range of his capabilities. The string section shows a clear mastery of The Riff, with a tone that throws back endearingly to the 1990s, and Chris’ drumming is tight throughout, expertly switching between slow grooves and breakneck-speed blasting. Most of the songs are very similar to the others, although this is very much part of the effect. If there’s one thing, I found the mix quite guitar-heavy, with some of the other bandmembers difficult to pick out at times. I’d have particularly liked to have heard more of the drum performance, which was a death metal masterclass. Again, though, high-end modern production wouldn’t have really done the band’s vision justice.
Put simply, this is an album to not think about too much, and headbang away to your heart’s content. One for those who like it old-school. It’s a throwback, sure, and doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Neither does it need to.
Forlorn and Forsaken is out on Memento Mori NOW