[Review] Toronto Deathheads Gutvoid Pen Their 'Astral Bestiary,' A Diverse, Decimating EP

Updated: Sep 17

While death metal may be forever synonymous with Florida for some, there’s not an American monopoly on the brutal subgenre. Look no further than our neighbors to the north, specifically Toronto’s own Gutvoid, comprised of Daniel Bonofiglio (guitars/bass), Brendan Dean (vocals/guitars), Justin Boehm (bass), and D. W. Lee (drums). Their previous individual membership spans bands such as Grotesque Mass, Simulacra, and Orchidectomy, bringing together four extreme minds of the extreme music scene. Their debut EP Astral Bestiary is but three tracks long, totaling roughly twenty-four minutes, but there is a lot of meat on the bone. Death metal may be the vehicle of choice for Gutvoid, but their journey takes them through progressive, doom, and black metal country, all while keeping true to their blood-soaked roots throughout.

“They Came Dripping From The Stars” starts things off on a heavy, powerful note, with pounding drum fills and low, chugging guitars. The main riff is a treat, sounding like modern metal bolstered with alternating machine gun kicks and blast beats. Around the three and a half minute mark on this six minute metal highway, we get an odd time signature, something to jolt the listener and get their attention, or perhaps it’s more of a foot shove to see if they’re still breathing after the onslaught thus far. The breakdown shortly thereafter has rattling bass guitar and a hellish tone about it, right up until the blast beats come in droves to send this song off on its merry way.

“Entranced By A Frozen Dawn” is a sweeping epic, spanning eleven and a half minutes. The first passages are doomy, gloomy, and all around haunting, with crushing riffs and meticulous bass riffing. Around two minutes and fifteen seconds in, things get kvlt up in this bitch, as we get blast beats to drive the first verses and curses along. The lead guitar is like an old music box over the skullduggery conjured by the rhythm guitars and bass. If a song clocking in at double-digits minutes seems imposing, that may be all well and good, but this is a methodical, meticulous dissection, rather than a simple gutstab. It may not necessarily change how you view death metal as a whole, but it is sure to make you think, assuming you can hold your head up after the beating this song lays in.

Finally, we have “Pilgrimage to the Necropolis Ruin,” a six minute instrumental jam that brings slick lead guitar playing over a doom metal structure, trading in the flashes of ferocity for a darker atmosphere and sensibility. Even then, the lead guitar isn’t a sweep-picking sensation or a string-skipping blitzkrieg; rather, it gets by on being a strange kind of melodic, with that sinking feeling of certain death peeking its head around the corner, right up to the fade out.

Astral Bestiary is not a one-note, by the book sort of death metal release. It is an informed, variety-embracing record with just as much technicality as crushing, heavy metal. Just when you think you know the beast, it evolves, and Astral Bestiary is such an evolution for the death metal scene as a whole.

Astral Bestiary is available now via Blood Harvest Records.

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