Deathstill - The Losing End of Gift Giving

When I first heard Deathstill, I was immediately reminded of classic Melodic Death Metal, mainly the Swedish bands. The influence was fairly obvious, but not in a clone/rip-off kind of way, and definitely not in a “catch us on warped tour this summer” kind of way. Their 2013 demo was a great introduction to the world, and had me very excited to hear what was next from this Columbia, South Carolina band.

“The Losing End of Gift Giving” was unleashed on the world in February, 2014, right in the middle of winter. A more perfect time could not have been chosen. This time around Deathstill sounds a little harsher, perhaps even a bit like a Black Metal band. Yes, the production is on the “lo-fi” end of the spectrum, but it takes nothing away from the music. I'd even argue that it enhances the dark tone of the songs.

This E.P. is named as one song split into two parts, clocking in at around eleven minutes. “The Losing End of Gift Giving pt 1” starts with a similar feel to the material on the '13 demo in as much as it might make you want to pillage, and plunder while guzzling flagons of ale. It's still very much in the vein of Melodic Death Metal, but the production (or lack thereof) adds a raw intensity to the tremolo-picked sections. This is a viking ship manned by the undead, ready to ravage the land of the living.

I'm sure that the “rehearsal demo” sound will turn off a few people, but truthfully, everything cuts through the mix when it needs to, and personally, I'm kinda tired of really clean-sounding Metal anyway. This sounds like what it is, a few guys playing really loud, heavy music in a familiar setting. Whether that setting is adorned with inverted crosses, goblets of infant blood, and goat skulls is anyone's guess. The music makes you think their space could be decorated as such, and it sure is a lot more fun to imagine it that way, so I'm going with it.

At first listen, it sounds like Deathstill really did go in a more “occult” direction this time around, but upon closer analysis, you can hear the same riffing style as before; it's all just a bit harsher now. The second track opens with a somewhat similar build-up as the first, but this time, instead of erupting into nifty Scandinavian-inspired Death Metal, it slowly grows into something more immense and terrorizing. This is where the vocals, and drums take their moment in the spotlight before it all crashes into a punishing Death Metal assault.

At around the two-minute mark, the song goes into full-fledged Black Metal. There is a sense of unsettling urgency here, driven home by the kind of tortured wails that would likely please even the most “elite” of sub-floor-dwelling Metalheads. A great duel-guitar harmony adds melody to a slow, heavy section that leads into another fantastic, catchy Metal riff that is almost Maiden-esque. This E.P. is brought to a close with an explosion of blastbeats and maniacal screams in a din of crunchy guitars.

This release runs the gamut of Heavy Metal styles without sounding lost or confused. This is Deathstill at their finest thus far, and a highly-recommended listen for anyone into any of the aforementioned Metal sub-genres. This is mean, abrasive, harsh, and absolutely killer. If you're one of those people who just has to nitpick over every little nuance of a recording, you'll probably be pleased with what little you have to bitch about, but the rest of us will be far too busy banging our heads to care.

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