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Perennial Anguish

Black Vulture (2013)
Rating: 8/10

Concrete Icon are a Finnish metal act who’ve been in existence since 2007, but despite a few demos and one EP (2012’s Where The Horns Reign), Perennial Anguish is the first full-length composition.

I have to admit that when I saw the band name I expected some type of steely, middle of the road metal band, but I was far from being accurate – Concrete Icon are a pounding old school death / doom metal band who really do jar the senses from the first note of ‘Haven Defiled’.

Firstly, I’m impressed by the vicious vocal attack of Jake (aka Jaakko Peltonen) who one moment wraps his filthy tongue around a snarling black metal tone, and the next he’s down in the guttural sewers of gloomy, mid-paced death metal. This really is an effective sound that for the most part relies on a down-tuned, almost wintry, bleak landscape of sound, and the doomy drums of S. Vainio is really one to note as it provides the ideal backdrop to this often dreary sounding noise.

I believe it’s because of the lack of pace that the band are so interesting; cutting deep with a clinical yet silt-encrusted guitar sound. But when they do inject a dose of pace, such as on the fiery chug of ‘Righteousness Decay’ and ‘Sadness Upon Us’ (the latter offering an almost groove-based deathly trudge), Concrete Icon become more of a deathly black metal act with elements of old school death metal – bridging the gap between that distinctive Swedish raspy metal, and the Floridian strains of, say, Morbid Angel with the twisted guitars.

However, I also think that fans of old doom metal, particularly the first two Paradise Lost albums, may find Concrete Icon’s guttural gloom of interest. Certainly the most striking track of the album is the gothic ‘The Choir Of Serpents’ with its orchestral introduction and thunderous drum plod from Vainio, but in its dreary chug it’s one part Motörhead at its most rusty and smouldering mixed with an unhealthy brand of toxic sludge, boosted by Jake’s putrid vocal alterations.

These guys are masters at changing direction and style, and so fans of twisted, albeit slower, twisted black metal will lap this up with forked tongue, but this record also has much to offer those death metal maniacs and members of the doom brigade.

Perennial Anguish is distinctively old school, particularly in its vocal sneers and gargles, but it’s also the sort of ominous record that billows black smoke throughout, dragging the listener down into its fire-drenched depths. Filthy, black, gloomy and melodic, Concrete Icon, right through to the anguish of the closing epic title track, have turned in a mighty piece of work that I never saw coming. Blessed with a superbly evil album cover – one of the best this side of Slayer’s South Of Heaven – I’m once again reminded as to why Finland is a country at the forefront of extreme metal.

Neil Arnold

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