It is still early days in 2012 and already we have been spoilt for choice for incredible death metal albums, from both younger, newer acts and those already established. Dyscarnate, Cannibal Corpse, Aborted and Nexus Inferis just to name a few have set the bar for death metal this year at a great height, and any death metal release now has a lot to stand up to.
German death metallers Lay Down Rotten have been around for quite a while now, first forming as a solo project in 1999, but despite some pleasing acclaim for previous albums, have never become quite a household name. “Mask Of Malice” is the band’s first album since the departure of guitarist Daniel Jakobi and his replacement with Daniel Seifert, a move the band had previously described as “fresh air”.
The first thing you hear at the start is a spoken word Holy ‘confession’, of which it is hard to tell whether this is tongue or cheek or being deadly serious; with song titles such as ‘The Devil Grins’ and ‘Hades Resurrected’ it can only be hoped that it is the former. Aside from this it has to be said that “Mask Of Malice” is a pretty generic album, of which you have most definitely heard before. Lay Down Rotten make no attempt at any evolutionary moving forward, yet this isn’t an entirely un-worthwhile listen either.
At times there are some pretty big hooks, and a lot of the time there is a real sense of an Amon Amarth influence about, most notably in ‘A Darker Shade Of Hatred’ and in the guitar solo in ‘Swallow The Bitterness’, which sounds quite impressive.
On the other hand, vocally this is very one dimensional and uninspiring, and despite some great hooks as mentioned before, most of the album sounds very similar and lacking in dynamism. That being said “Mask Of Malice” is not a bad album at all, and does have some real good moments. However, it is certainly shadowed by massive efforts by some of their peers this year.