Some bands worship the old school, other bands WERE the old school. Within the much-loved Finnish death metal scene, there are only a few of the old veterans still delivering the goods: one such band is Convulse, the same guys who released the highly-regarded “World Without God” back in 1991. After another well-received album in ’94, the band disappeared, only to now have emerged again from the depths for a third round of straight-shooting guttural metal on “Evil Prevails”.
There’s no hanging around with these fellows, they’re straight down to business in almost every track. The guitars remain a focal point throughout the release, providing melody and atonal chug in equal measures. The strong Finnish stench pervades the whole record; from the staccato guttural growls to its rough but not unlistenable mixing, and the riffs are clearly modelled on their influences of Autopsy, Vader, Bolt Thrower and the like (c.f. ‘We Kill Our Kind’, ‘Unholy War’). The songs are far from carbon copies though, and once the upper layer of filth is penetrated, some interesting patterns start to emerge.
As a result of the shift in the metal landscape since the band’s split, the members have taken on new influences since last time round. These manifest themselves in rather curious ways, in sections of songs which deviate from the heads-down groove that death metal normally insists. ‘Unholy War’ is the first to receive such treatment, where a jazzy solo and softly-spoken word drops in at a moment’s notice, as welcome light relief from the barrage of riffs. ‘God Is Delusion’ does its detour in a more subtle fashion, including a lengthy acoustic intro and some strangely danceable thrash riffs at the midpoint. While they try to pull the acoustic card later (‘Days Are Dark’) to a less rapturous reaction, the real experimentation hits in ‘Oceans Of Dust’ with tribal drumming, guitar noodling and even strangely muted singing, simply blasphemous in this kind of death metal, and yet strangely compelling.
The vocals are easily one of the biggest dividing factors of the album, not least with how monotonous they are. However, those accustomed to the grunts and growls of raw death metal will hardly bat an eyelid at what Rami Jämsä is doing to his throat, even if it sounds as though it may give way at any moment. The real bone of contention, however, is that even the lyrics contain the familiar tropes of the genre; they become yet another band to throw in the tired maxim “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”, and other overused topics.
Some may argue that Convulse are ‘carrying forth the old school spirit’ as they mostly stick to the comfortable boundaries of their chosen genre, and in a sense these people are right. However, when taking into account that nearly 20 years have passed, and much of the album feels like treading old ground, is that really the right attitude? The experimentation in this case becomes a welcome addition to the arsenal, and the true brilliance of “Evil Prevails” shines through; the Finns have put in enough of the old and the new to keep both camps happy, and done it in such a way that neither side can complain. Death metal, it seems, is not dead yet.