Landmine Marathon has come remarkably far in just six years of existence, and all of their accomplishments can be credited to the band’s adoption of metal’s oldest ethos: if you’re going to do anything, do it on your own terms. The band’s breakout album, 2008’s Rusted Eyes Awake, earned them a huge following, but that wasn’t what brought them the most attention. In fact, the album’s success was really the icing on the cake of a whirlwind year for Landmine Marathon, which saw them bringing their (literally) in-your-face stage show on the road with death metal heavyweights like Misery Index, Origin, and Cattle Decapitation. Their DIY ethic and nonstop touring schedule earned Landmine Marathon a contract with Prosthetic Records, and they took full advantage of the increased support by spending most of 2009 back on tour, including an appearance at the legendary New England Metal and Hardcore Festival. Now, Landmine Marathon is back with their Prosthetic debut, Sovereign Descent, a crushing onslaught of classic death metal.
Vocalist Grace Perry is the fuel that ignites the fire in this band. Her delivery is positively visceral in every aspect, channeling the best of Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, and the Black Dahlia Murder into a screaming, primal rage. The passion in her performance is what sets her above her contemporaries in other young death metal bands. Very few death metal vocalists in the new scene opt for a simple delivery, instead trying to scream higher or growl lower than everyone else in order to seem more “brutal” and thus gain more credibility. Perry is one of the few vocalists with a simple delivery that still manages to channel the ferocity of the music into the vocals. Her range doesn’t go very far, but it doesn’t need to. Perry’s consistent vocal strength is so good that she could easily be compared to some of the best veteran death metal singers from the late ‘80s. It also doesn’t hurt that her intensity on record is matched in live performances, where Perry is known to jump in the crowd and mosh alongside fans twice her size.
Musically, Sovereign Descent is a dream come true for old school death metal fans. With down-tuned guitars, simplified production, and excellent drumming being the dominant themes of the album, Landmine Marathon has successfully resurrected the glory of the early American death metal scene on this album. However, there are also some experimental sections that enliven the album at various points. Most notable among these is the seven-minute track “Steadfast Hate”, which starts at a very slow pace, reminiscent of classic doom metal bands like Candlemass, before turning on the speed again and throwing in some excellent solos. It’s a sudden change of pace for the album, but it proves to be successful in its execution. There are other similar moments spread throughout the album, and as a whole, they keep the album sounding fresh and exciting until the very end.
Sovereign Descent is a declaration by Landmine Marathon that traditional death metal is still alive and well, and will remain so until metal dies completely. Seeing a young band emulate the style of the genre’s forefathers so well is a welcome sight among the tasteless, boring deathcore bands that are suffocating the scene right now. It may not be an innovative album, but Sovereign Descent stands out because it’s such a strong tribute to the early days of death metal. Landmine Marathon has a lot going for them, and if they keep to their current formula, they can only continue to improve.