Though their history is recent, Toledo, Ohio’s own Hanging Fortress have crafted their own tribute to old school brutal death metal. Carving out their sound in the Glass City, the five-piece have a pair of EPs under their collective belt, some of the tracks from which are reworked for this debut LP, Darkness Devours. With notes of black metal and hardcore thrown in, this is a crushing effort from these young defenders of the death metal camp.
Starting off the record is “Burned Alive,” which begins with a clean guitar flourish punctuated by the drums ever so slightly, before things descend into mayhem. The first section with the entire band sets the tone, as a ride-heavy passage catches the embers and ignites the mix. It’s sludgy and guttural, a punishing first salvo. “Stab Wounds” goes to Tremolo Picking Town early and stays there for some time, with a skull-caving hardcore section and loads of excellent bass guitar shenanigans, which are always welcome in a genre which unintentionally sells the four-stringers short. The breakdown which caps this track off is bound to be a pit killer and a blood-spiller.
The band’s title track is a heavy one, with more of a blackened spin on the formula. The vocals don’t play a large role, instead allowing the rhythm section to bust heads with chugging guitars and a healthy dose of pinch harmonics. “Blood Mountain” trashes the brakes that the album may have ridden in with, going for a more is more approach featuring blast beats, tremolo picking, and more baying vocals. Pinch harmonics are alive and well in the sludgy, knuckle-dragging title track, a hard way as opposed to whatever the easy way to go may have been.
“Drown” lives up to its name, as its pace is more impending and imposing, relying less on manic guitar lines or blast beats and more on a heavy picking hand and bone-breaking spurts of tremolo picked passages. When it does flip into more catastrophic territory, it does so not only seamlessly, but almost gleefully, like a smiling killer. Finally we come to “Killing You,” a methodical mid-tempo devastator that flays the skin and plays around in the viscera long after the screaming stops.
Taken as a whole, this twenty-one minutes of bloody mayhem is a jolt in the arm, even during the brutish slower tracks. If this is what their first offering sounds like, then I shudder to think what Hanging Fortress will have in store next offering, though that shudder is less out of horror and more out of cautious excitement. Darkness Devours is a love letter to old school DM, yes, but with enough newer touches and techniques to make things fresh and exciting.
Darkness Devours is available now via Redefining Darkness Records.