Being previously unfamiliar with Poland’s Stillborn, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when the folks at Godz of War Productions (the band’s PR reps) offered to send me the band’s latest album, Los Asesinos del Sur. However, knowing full well that Polish metal has an uncanny tendency to kick copious amounts of ass (see: Vader, Behemoth, Azarath, Iperyt, Graveland, Decapitated, etc), I couldn’t resist the opportunity to potentially add another name to my list of elite metal practitioners hailing from the country. If Los Asesinos del Sur is any indication, Stillborn not only deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as their more well known countrymen, they’re also damn near the top of the heap.
Stillborn’s approach to death/black metal can be likened to that of a mixed martial arts fighter. The band hits hard and often, alternating between clubbing blows and precision strikes. The songwriting is sharp and tightly coiled, but often explodes into flurries of violence. Clocking it at just a little over thirty minutes, the band switches up its attack frequently throughout the album’s ten tracks, making it difficult to determine when and where they’ll hit you next. Get in, kick ass, get out is the philosophy of Los Asesinos del Sur. There isn’t an ounce of fat to be found here, songs such as “Hymn of Destruction” “Antonym” and “Kot Wolanda” last just long enough to break bones, rip tendons and fracture skulls. When the band does stretch songs out past the three minute mark, as on “Blood and Dust” and the title track, they’re still all muscle, never deviating from their intention to inflict as much pain as possible.
To put things in more musical terms, Los Asesinos del Sur is an exercise in concise songwriting with an extremely high level of craftsmanship. Stillborn are able to fit more cool, crushing riffs into a two-minute-and-forty-second song than most bands are able to muster in twice that amount of time. Given the band’s nationality, it seems natural to assume that Stillborn learned the lessons of brevity and badass-ness from Vader, but the quartet are by no means a carbon copy of herr Piotr Wiwczarek and Co. Instead, Stillborn plays a hybrid of a black and death metal that’s largely all their own, leaning more heavily to the death metal side of things in terms of power and production, but seething with pure malevolence and hatred (and the occasional tremolo riff) that most certainly comes from black metal. In this respect, the sound is probably closer to Behemoth, but Stillborn come off as leaner, meaner and hungrier than Behemoth have been in years.
An album as devastating and ambitious as Los Asesinos del Sur can’t be viewed as anything other than a statement of intent. The intent is to put other bands on notice. No more resting on your laurels or coasting on your reputations. No more pretentious, self-indulgent songs and bloated, overly long albums. No more “Radikult” and no more bullshit. Stillborn have arrived and they want you fucking dead.