Riffy, old-school death/thrash metal

Ever the purveyor of things unusual and unexpected, 2020 sees Oslo, Norway-based supergroup Insidious Disease return with their sophomore album.

After Death, set for release just over a decade after their debut Shadowcast, sees band mainstays Marc Grewe (ex-Morgoth), Silenoz (Dimmu Borgir), Shane Embury (Napalm Death) and Tony Laureano (Devil’s Highway, ex-1349) joined by Suspiria guitarist Cyrus. Insidious Disease’s members have a firm pedigree rooted in various subgenres of extreme metal. Will After Death resemble the death metal approach taken by Shadowcast or will it be something else entirely?

Lead-off track Soul Excavation begins with some ambience and a quick guitar figure. This soon dissipates as the track proper starts. The first thing that becomes clear is Grewe’s approach; he’s treated his vocals with the hardcore-imbued frenzied style that marked Shadowcast. That, and Tony Laureano has lost none of his prowess. The riffs from Silenoz, Embury and Cyrus are solid but it’s the former two members in the driver’s seat, making Soul Excavation a punisher of an opener.

Betrayer is also a punisher, mid-paced and crushing amid downtuned riffs. I’d hesitate to use the word ‘groove’ as it’s not quite that far afield but there’s a definite swagger here. An eerie lead provides a solid hook for the second half of the track over which Grewe spews some savage vocals. Both some well-placed gang vocals in the chorus and the rhythm section provide a solid foundation, but when your rhythm section is anchored by folks surnamed Embury and Laureano, the latter is damn near guaranteed.

Divine Fire is a fine showcase for the taut riffing of Silenoz and Cyrus, ably anchored by the punishing rhythms. Grewe leads them through a skilful time change as the pace increases. This is quite a catchy number that I could easily see crowds belting out along with Grewe (current circumstances excepted) as the slithering guitar figures provide a backbone over which the band sees fit to create devastation in its riffs.  Unguided Immortality is another grinding mid-paced track, serving to show just how comfortable these musicians are when they lock in with each other. Grewe’s melody lines follow the riff so smoothly that they create a perfect lead-in for the guitar interplay that really steals the show throughout.

Invisible War marks the mid-point album and its injection of speed and traditional death metal-styled vocals make for some welcome interplay with the hardcore-inflected venom that Grewe has employed thus far. The well-timed use of speed definitely gives the track a different flavour, along with the shred-influenced guitar leads.

Born into Bondage is another track full of variation. A claustrophobic intro soon gives way to a furious blast of speed and impressive drumming from Laureano. The riffs on offer are thrashy and Grewe’s vocals are fit to suit. It’s a relatively over the top display of histrionics and brutality, but one that will linger in the mind of the listener long after it ends. Enforcers of the Plague seems built on Grewe’s catchy vocal lines, another mid-paced belter that owes as much as to thrash as it does to death metal. Suitably old-school in approach, the track sees a reprise of those pure death metal vocals. It’s well placed in its position on the album coming after the preceding tracks that offered a bit more variance than what’s on offer here.

An End Date With the World focuses on the propulsive drumming offered by Laureano. It works as a good counterpoint to the dynamic riffs on offer. This is one of those tracks that has a finality to it. It’s powerful and memorable but it might be better served as the album closer. Nefarious Atonement is a fine example of what this band excels at: crushing mid-paced death metal of the older variety. It’s a track like this that offers everything that makes After Death such a consistent album. Killer vocals and great instrumental performances from each member. Couple that with a very ‘live’ approach to the song-writing, this makes for a very memorable track.

Album closer Secret Sorcery is a down-tempo, brooding mini-epic that grabs on and doesn’t let go. It also serves a stark reminder of how versatile Marc Grewe; in this track he drops hints of Tom G. Warrior and Max Cavalera, while all the while sounding like himself. After so many years he’s still a monster. It’s a great album closer that sees each band member firing on all cylinders to create something eerie, punishing and memorable.

It’s clear that Insidious Disease never set out to reinvent the wheel. Their mission is simple: to create some riffy, old-school death/thrash metal. They’ve done just that; focusing on crafting mid-paced death metal that goes for the throat. I can’t fault them for that, but the variation on offer in select tracks here makes me both appreciate the album all the more and wonder ‘what could it have been?’ if they stretched themselves out a bit more. Still, Insidious Disease seems like a fun, satisfying project for the musicians involved. If listeners go into it with this mindset, they’ll enjoy it just as much.

  1. Soul Excavation
  2. Betrayer
  3. Divine Fire
  4. Unguided Immortality
  5. Invisible War
  6. Born Into Bondage
  7. Enforcers of the Plague
  8. An End Date With the World
  9. Nefarious Atonement
  10. Secret Sorcery