Alluvial - Death Is But A Door

Artist: Alluvial

Album Title: Death Is But a Door EP

Label: Nuclear Blast Records

Date of Release: 12 January 2024

Back in 2021, I found myself rather impressed by the album, ‘Sarcoma’, from a band by the name of Alluvial. Grounded in death metal, it was an interesting record that had a lot more to say than just ‘growl’, ‘blast’, ‘smash’, adding different elements to the overall sound to create something compelling, modern, and occasionally challenging. Melody, groove, atmospherics, and lots of progressive ideas helped to create an album that intrigued me, earning a positive review in the process.

Well, Alluvial are back just shy of three years later with a four-track EP entitled ‘Death Is But A Door’. The trio of ex-Suffocation vocalist Kevin Muller, lead guitarist and co-founder Wes Hauch, and bassist Tim Walker are all present and correct on this latest outing. However, there has been one casualty from the ‘Sarcoma’ album, with drummer Matthew Paulazzo replaced by Zach Dean in the intervening years.

You could sense from ‘Sarcoma’, that Alluvial were never content to just churn out the same music time and time again, so it’s no surprise to hear that the music has once again shifted and progressed on ‘Death Is But A Door’. It’s not a seismic shift, granted, but it’s definitely fair to say that the quartet have nudged their chosen output a little further towards the boundaries of death metal, maybe even placing a tentative toe or two over the border into other territories. In whatever way you choose to ultimately define the music on this EP, it definitely makes for an interesting listen, and makes me yearn for just a little bit more than just the four songs with which we are graced here.

In fact, the more I listen to ‘Death Is But A Door’, the more I find myself pulled under the Alluvial spell. Each of the four songs offers something different, but equally compelling in their own way. Given that there are only four songs on this EP, I propose to consider each one in turn.

Up first is the charmingly-titled ‘Bog Dweller’ and it is a marvellous opening track. Chugging riffs and an explosion of frantic drumming sets the EP off in great style, before the track offers more of a churning gait, punctuated by blasts of speed to offset the slightly mesmeric groove that gets the body moving almost involuntarily. The masterstroke to these ears, however, is the way the song seamlessly segues from that powerful, muscular groove into an unexpected melody that is brief but hits hard. Speaking of hitting hard, the ensuing lead guitar solo atop some blistering double-pedal drumming is breathless fodder. The track rarely sits still long enough to allow the listener to catch their breath, but so effortless are the shifts in attack, that the whole song feels strangely cohesive and utterly compelling.

Alluvial - Death Is But A Door

I’m going to go out on a limb now, though, and confess that the opener, despite its melodic accents, is not my favourite track on this EP. That title is reserved, unexpectedly, for ‘Fogbelt’. The shrieking guitar note that comes out of nowhere within a few seconds is a bit of an initial shock, but it becomes a recurring focal point of what is, to put it bluntly, a behemoth of an ugly song. But it’s ugly in the very best way. It sounds discordant in part, and generally moves at a slow, lurching, lumbering pace, but bursts of pace only accentuate the roiling, lava-like progress of the track, underpinned my thick, malevolent bass rumblings. The riffs and general guitar tones are perfect, underlining the impeccable production of this EP. But, it’s that nasty guitar squeal that elevates the song so high in my affections, and I’m at a bit of a loss to explain exactly why.

‘Area Code’ begins with a oppressive dystopian, industrial feel, as if you’ve stumbled upon into a factory of nightmares. Not as grimly nasty as its predecessor, or as melodic as the opener, instead it’s the plethora of chunky riffs that do the most damage alongside a savage vocal performance and plenty of clever shifts in pace to keep the listener on their toes and unable to properly relax.

And then, to close, it’s the turn of the most controversial track on offer here, the title track. Talk about a dramatic shift in direction because, after three tracks of bruising, tech death, we’re faced with a much more melodic composition featuring clean vocals from Muller. The gruff death growls are not lost, nor is the overall heaviness, although the central chorus, dominated by Muller’s croon and the most overt melodies on the EP, give the illusion of a reduction in the brutality. Some reviewers have hated the track, whilst others think it’s the high point. Me, personally, I can take it or leave it. The melody is strong and memorable, whilst I like the clean vocal approach. But, as someone who’s a sucker for melody, I can’t see past the least approachable and melodic composition in ‘Fogbelt’ as Alluvial’s tour-de-force on this EP.

Overall, I really like ‘Death Is But A Door’. It brings variety, originality, and no lack of bludgeoning brutality to the table and in a way that’s pretty difficult to ignore. Plus, as all EPs should, it leaves you wanting more. Much more.

The Score of Much Metal: 88%

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