Finnish Death Metal is doing well in 2020. Most of the scene was gathered to play in one place, to a full arena in London’s Finnfest in February, just before the Covid hassle stopped the world in it’s tracks. Then Solothus and Lantern both released ultimate top-tenners of albums only a few months later. Both of these are going directly to the list of the very best releases coming out of the whole scene. Ever. Now the next band to put their collection of death worship on public display and adding their touch to the year is Gorephilia.
Formed in 2006 under the somewhat silly moniker of Goretexx, Gorephilia have become one of the most appreciated names in Finnish Death Metal. Building their status slowly, each record being better than the previous one, they have risen to be on the level where their new release is a much anticipated one for the whole global Death Metal underground. A big part of their rise in appreciation have been the line-up changes Gorephilia has gone through in recent years, all clearly audible on “In the Eye of Nothing.” Firstly, the arrival of Kauko Kuusisalo (…And Oceans, Gloria Morti, Aegrus) brought world class mastership to the drum throne. With such a talent behind the kit, Gorephilia can release a battery equal to any classic Death Metal act on the planet. Morbid Angel, Suffocation, Terrorizer… You name it. If they fail, it is certainly not because of the drummer.
The second big change was a less pleasant one, and without a doubt a full-blown tragedy. After the release of their previous record, “Severed Monolith” in 2017, Gorephilia vocalist Henri Kuula took his own life, leaving the band at the very gates of disaster. For a while nobody was sure what would happen with Gorephilia, but they endured and are now releasing the first album since the passing of Henri. One can only guess at how emotional a ride it has been.
On the new album, guitarist Jukka Aho has overtaken the vocal duties, and his debut as a singer is nothing short of impressive. Actually, it is hard to even tell the difference to preceding Gorephilia material, when the music and the vocal arrangements have remained intact and Jukka’s sound operates largely around same type of thematic as they were known for already. Maybe a bit more controlled with tempos, and certainly tighter in sound, the Gorephilia of 2020 sounds first and foremost professional, sharp and neck-breakingly heavy. There are number of mosh-pit pleasing riffs on top of brilliant kick-drum fire on the album, all in the finest tradition of classic Death Metal. Tracks like “Ouroboran Labyrinth” and “Simplicity of Decay” make one wish for a fast return of gigs in full scale. My favourite from the album is still “Not for the Weak,” a tune which holds the strongest melodic riff on the album. So damn good. Just imagine it being played by a cello and it would sound simply phenomenal! My neighbours are bound to learn these tunes very well, and they are about to wonder about the occasional thud also, which is yours truly diving from the couch. On their latest, Gorephilia mean business and sound more fine-tuned an engine than ever before.
Why 4 out 5 then? Well… This is a paradox. I don’t know how it is for you people out there, but my biggest wish throughout the whole album was that Gorephilia would pull a random surprise from their sleeves at some point. To shock the system, even for the smallest of microseconds! Right now, there are riffs, tempo-changes and atonal leads for the needs of any devoted Death Metal fan, but my biggest concern is that most of them have been heard already. It is certainly super heavy and well crafted, but it isn’t changing anything in the rulebook. This is Death Metal through and through, but it doesn’t hold too much originality about it. “In the Eye of Nothing” beats every Morbid Angel record released since the album starting with G, but it does not hold the element of surprise the idols of Gorephilia have had, when at their best. The album is, for the lack of a better term, safe. Safe, but damn enjoyable. And this is the thing I’m struggling the most, with “In the Eye of Nothing.” The paradox.
“In the Eye of Nothing” is not the best Death Metal album of 2020, that is for sure, but it is still very, very impressive. A record that is simply bound for multiple spins in years to come. Gorephilia have all it takes to be amongst the biggest classics of the genre, but to do that they need to take the brave step and bring more Gorephilia and less Morbid Angel onboard for the next album, if you know what I mean. Let it be weird, more melodic, more atonal, or batshit crazy, but let it be theirs and theirs alone. Then, dear friends, we have new kings in the making. So, despite the immense delivery, this remains as a death threat, not a clean head shot.
Rating – 4/5