Grandiosa Muerte - Egregor (Bitume)

There has been a shortage of quality off-kilter death metal (DM) in 2023, and life is hard when you're scrounging at the bottom of the barrel. That's why my eyes widened when Trojan namedropped one-man Costa Rican act Grandiosa Muerte in a recent Mutant Breakfast watercooler discussion on the topic. The rippling vortex wreathing the skull on debut album Egregor hinted that this was likely DM of a cosmic or space-faring variety, which made sense, given how fellow countrymen Bloodsoaked Necrovoid lace their deranged ooga-booga with heavy doses of grotesque sci-fi horror. I also learned that it was mixed and mastered by Colin Marston at The Thousand Caves, in the studio's never-ending head-hunt for budding avant-garde talent. Finally, had I found some DM catering to my esoteric appetites?

By and large, my first impression was accurate. Egregor is not a tired OSDM retread, another exercise in modern dissonance, or anything that feels in lockstep with a current DM trend. While it does make good on its cover's promise with the shellacked space-age aesthetic and strobe-lit synthwork (think Universally Estranged or Warp Chamber), it's more streamlined and sleek. In that regard, it hews closer to Blut Aus Nord's foray into pseudo-industrial DM on the monolithic 777 series, even if the production isn't quite as bottomless as Vindsval and company's swoops into the abyss. That's not a knock on Marston, though—his mixing on Egregore is even-handed and lithe, fermenting the multi-layered vocal attack, churning riffs, and mechanized drumwork into a potent homebrew. The real centerpiece is the bass performance though, as it bursts from the mix like Superman out of a phonebooth to reveal the album's secret identity. Its eloquent vocabulary and jaunty bounce offer a sassy tweak on kosmische, thawing icy kraut-inflected minimalism with a sultry Latin American heat. What's more, because Grandiosa Muerte execute this wily gambit with compact and even-keeled songwriting, Egregor clocks in at just over a half hour—like all good DM albums. Long story short: if you're hard up for something outré like I was, it's thirty minutes of taut astro-savagery you won't want to miss.