Your Grouchy friend absolutely worships early Dismember and Entombed so it shouldn’t come as a huge shock that he quite enjoys a bit of early Dismember and Entombed worship. LIK’s “Misanthropic Breed” is most certainly that. With its title it is fair to say that it does arrive as advertised – both Entombed and Dismember having used the evocative word in their earlier days.
Put quite simply, this album slaps, hard, to your face, to the other cheek, removes the leather glove, slaps you again and then throws the glove down in a challenge to the death. It is easy to imagine that this would be even more the case had you never heard the seminal Swedish originals, and I almost wish I was a youngster hearing this album naïve and unprepared for the face melting intensity that is LIK.
There are two potential schools of thought here:
1. How dare they create an album so closely apeing old school classics.
2. By god they’ve created an album of a quality those old guys only wish they could have achieved later in their careers. An album that it truly must be said rivals their storied classics (there I said it).
From its opening salvo amid screams of terror it is clear nary a prisoner will be taken, scarcely a quarter given, and no retreat offered: you are in for the thrill ride of your life. Opening track “The Weird” and it’s successor “Decay” impart a fabulous feel of hell for leather speed and abrasion with occasional stops for just enough breath to recommence the assault with fresh gusto. The drums in particular recall the stayed and famous Swedish attack – drilling you with unrelenting beats where others may flourish and change passages for effect. In this manner there may be some who feel that sameness is a flaw or a negative – in LIK this is a stylistic choice rather than an absence of choices. This album bludgeons rather than slices… and that is absofuckinglutely fine with Your Grouchy Friend.
“Funeral Anthem” perhaps strides a step too close to the altar of bands past, with its addictive post-first-chorus riff bearing remarkable similarity to an Entombed classic from “Clandestine.” The trick for LIK has always been and will always be, in Your Grouchy Friend’s opinion, going close to an admittedly subjective line of derivation while retaining the aggressive authenticity and latter day freshness which is their signature. This is a truly great song resolving to an engaging and simple melody that claws into your brain, but if you’ve heard the predecessor the similarity to its most compelling riff element is very difficult to ignore.
“Corrosive Survival” is hook laden, uncomplicated and driving. It’s breakdown that smashes in around the two minutes mark is bloody beautiful and the bridging part that erupts forth from its depths is one of the sweetest sections of the album: Not sweet as in sugary but sweet as in hard and grooving Swedish Death. The successive movement into a couple of short lead breaks spilt by vocal passages works perfectly. These detours floor the listener and the rampant conclusion seeks to stomp its prey into bloody pulp – top shelf stuff.
“Female Fatal to the Flesh” is urged along by a wide open stomping drum pattern, supporting a delicious chugging riff. Couple that with a rather entertaining piece of cartoonish lyrical creativity and you have a recipe for flat out entertainment of the finest variety. It is an excellent change of pace at precisely the right moment – this is a superbly laid out and programmed album – and sets up perfectly the movement into the instrumental interlude “Misanthropic Breed.”
The title track creeps in with some reverb drenched melodic build up: sustained, high gain arpeggios drifting through walls of that chunky HM-2 fuelled rhythm guitar… Luring it’s prey into the “Flesh Frenzy” to follow. The main riff of which certainly recalls the Dismember side of history, flowing this time into pounding, slamming oblivion.
Lawrence Mackrory is again responsible for harnessing the sonic assault and seemingly sees little reason to alter a winning formula. There is an incrementally better balance to the mix overall – and a clarity that only serves to strengthen the savagery further. When cranked right up on some good cans, the way Mackrory has pushed each element to the maximum and cleverly carved its place in the mix is a fervently clear delight. There is nothing like hearing Death Metal at hellacious volume… it is an unearthly treat when so thunderous and balanced.
Vocal phrasing is an absolutely vital element of strong Death Metal, and even the greatest of the great have been undone by a brutal sounding vocal that is pedestrian in its rhythm and execution – in “Morbid Fascination” the phrasing is superb. A Marching build with increased tempo at the end of each passage. Pseudo-call-and-reply through perfect use of delay (echo). It isn’t necessarily complicated, but its rhythmic quality and suitedness to the song at hand are a huge part of what makes this track a Grouchy favourite. The structure of “Morbid Fascination” also rises a step above; the middle section propels a chorused bass sound to the fore and foreshadows the great riff to follow. Again these aren’t necessarily the most complex of elements but the mastery is in the arrangement, execution and frenetic energy.
Staying with such thoughts, what really differentiates LIK from their forefathers is the superb vocals of Tomas Åkvik. His voice is a searing blaze of mid-high frequency glory. Seated magnificently on high, on a reverberant throne it is the devilish cream on a malevolent cake. All power and fury, feeling completely unhinged and unleashed Åkvik serves each song to its maximum potential. It isn’t outrageous to suggest a vocal reminiscent of Behemoth in places – the urgent “to violence, loyalty I swear” in “Flesh Frenzy” evokes more than a little Nergal. There is, in all and utter honestly a valid thought here – unpopular opinion warning – that LIK is vocally superior to both of their aforementioned Swedish predecessors. The searing aggression is almost ceaseless, and it is clear and of a fantastic quality. Add to that the dual vocals where they kick in and you have the purest essence of Swedish brutality.
In addition to the vocal, one of LIK’s key points of difference from their Stockholm brethren lies in the more traditional Metal melodies that pepper the chaos. There are some Iron Maiden style melodic parts in songs like “Decay” which resolve beautifully into more common Death Metal structures, and the melody driving “Wolves” in accompaniment to its incredibly catchy chorus is perfect. “Wolves” has some of the best slowed down riffs on the album and is perhaps the most complete example of the band’s collective capabilities if being short of the best song.
The sense of fun that this album brings to the genre is also unmistakable. Don’t get it twisted, there is intensity aplenty but every time “Faces of Death” beats its way to Your Grouchy Friend’s ears, it produces a huge smile hearing “that’s right!” as a filthy lead break kicks in. The song is a shining example of LIK’s unabashed passion for rollicking, immediate Death Metal: the galloping Hardcore inflected D-beat is simply impossible not to enjoy.
The album hammers along at pace hurling at the listener infectious riff after infectious riff. It starts strong. It ends stronger, with the downhill slope from “Morbid Fascination” onward piling on the intensity, the abandon, and the compelling energy. The final track “Becoming” is another excellent song with appropriate smatterings of melody that feel like closure as the album draws to a close.
Blazing out of Stockholm Sweden – where else – LIK are a beast that have excavated the darkest pits and hit solid gold with their third album “Misanthropic Breed.” It’s is more of the exquisite brutality for which LIK have become famous. Put simply it’s a fucking monstrous affair. Whilst it would be remiss of a reviewer not to honestly recount the origins of this brand of Death Metal and the derivative nature of the sound, in the same way as religions reinvented, repurposed, altered perspective and rebadged throughout history, we as the Death Metal faithful should see beauty in the same. There is more than sufficient reinvention in LIK’s ongoing genuflection to their forefathers for us all to stop pretending this isn’t the worthy gospel of our common god homilized in a vicious new way. It is brutal. It is authentic. It is immediate. Fall to your knees and accept LIK… body and blood.
Rating – 4.5/5