“Mature” probably isn’t the first word that comes to mind when one thinks of brutal death metal, hell it probably isn’t the five-hundredth word one thinks of. But I’ll be damned if Parables of Umbral Transcendence, the debut full-length from NY/FL-based project Swine Overlord isn’t a shockingly mature slab of BDM. The band has largely shed the slam leanings and cartoonish visual imagery of their earlier recordings in favor of a more pure brutal death metal sound accompanied by science fiction-influenced artwork, and as a result have released one of the genre’s best albums of 2014.
Swine Overlord continues to employ a dense, dry, tightly wound production scheme, and if anything their music has gotten even more claustrophobic. It basically sounds like someone decided to make your head the meat in a cinder block sandwich, then smash the blocks with sledgehammers while your head is still pinned between them. For just about any other style of music, this wouldn’t work, but in the hands of Swine Overlord it turns the music into a ruthless killing machine. When the band goes into full-on blasting mode, there is a cold, calculating precision similar to that of Mortician thanks to the programmed drums, but that’s where the similarities end, as Swine Overlords approach is far more technical and at times dare I say experimental.
Now, that isn’t to say Swine Overlord have gone and released the brutal death metal equivalent of an Opeth album or something, but there are little things scattered throughout the album, such as the jazzy break near the end of “Cadaveric Pantomime,” the spacey lead guitar in “Dismantling the Flesh Construct,” the ambient intro to “Post-Burial Defloration” and the Defeated Sanity-esque bass playing that pops up from time to time, that make them sound downright progressive by brutal death metal standards. There also appears to be a bit of a deathcore influence creeping in, but Swine Overlord wisely keep this to a minimum and utilize the genre’s one worthy aspect, its penchant for catchy refrains and breakdowns.
If there is one complaint to be had about Parables of Umbral Transcendence, it’s that it runs a little long for a brutal death metal album at forty-three minutes. That much pummeling can be a bit hard to stomach in one sitting, but those aforementioned progressive flourishes do go a long way towards providing a breather between beatings, and one can’t really blame the band for wanting to give fans an overload of brutal bang for their buck. It’s a minor gripe that in no way diminishes what Swine Overlord have accomplished here, which is an impressive step up from those aforementioned early recordings.
With Parables of Umbral Transcendence, Swine Overlord have released an album that successfully lives up to the buzz they’ve been receiving amidst the brutal death metal underground. It’s probably not going to win over folks that aren’t already deep into this shit, but connoisseurs of the genre will find a hell of a lot to like. That said, if the band can continue to hone and expand upon the progressive tendencies exhibited here, crossover success could very well be in their future.