The metal underground is in such absurdly rude health at the moment that it's often hard to decide which brutal sub-strain to pay closest attention to. 2019 has been an exceptional year for death metal. But digging deeper reveals that there seems to be a significant resurgence in the dark art of slow-motion extremity, and that nebulous subgenre doom/death metal in particular. Whether WARCRAB fit neatly into that category is questionable: "Damned In Endless Light" is no kind of pure-breed affair and touches upon everything from viscous, southern-fried sludge to grandiose, psycho-delic post-metal as it grinds inexorably forward. But if you want to be reminded why, even in death metal, slow is nearly always heavier than fast, please meet your new favorite band, because "Damned In Endless Night" is righteously crushing from first to last.
WARCRAB exhibited huge amounts of potential on their 2016 album "Scars of Aeon", but the follow-up obliterates everything the British sextet have released previously. There's an authority coursing through the despondent, muscular riff that kicks things off, as intro "Perpetua" sets the scene. "Halo of Flies" follows with another haunting but barbaric doom riff, before erupting into a stop-start groove that, in the best possible way, absolutely reeks of "Symphonies of Sickness"-era CARCASS. Next, "In the Arms of Armageddon" hurls the tank-attack grind of prime BOLT THROWER into the mix, deftly alternating between all-out war and loping, Sabbathian swagger across five-and-a-half minutes of pure adrenalin. It would all be a bit exhausting were it not so ridiculously exciting: "Abyssal Mausoleum" begins as a remorseless stream of molten lava, funereal and fizzing with ill-intent, before strong strains of NEUROSIS's artful destruction start to seep through cracks in the looming riff-wall. It's both familiar and audacious: sludge metal dismantled and rebuilt for new, nefarious purposes.
In fact, part of the magic at play on "Damned In Endless Night" is in the way WARCRAB harness all manner of disparate ideas and channel them through an unerring prism of low-slung, bowel-rattling monstrousness. "Unfurling Wings of Damnation" is almost two songs in one: a warped and disorientating first half giving way to some joyously lobotomized ENTOMBED-style, death 'n' roll pummeling. Likewise, "Swords" somehow conspires to combine the desperate menace of EYEHATEGOD with the monolithic repetition of GODFLESH, as vocalist Martyn Grant spits out some macabre diatribe like a man (genuinely) possessed. Claustrophobic melancholy begins to ooze from the slowly morphing riffs midway through this six-minute behemoth, as the pace momentarily picks up before plummeting back down toward WARCRAB's (surprisingly enjoyable) world of languid sonic horror. Elegant epilogue "Damnati" goes some way to ending the album on a less visceral note, but you may still feel like you've been flattened by a demonic steamroller.
For those death metal diehards feeling slightly bewildered by a year dominated by neck-wrenching blastbeats and beatdowns, "Damned In Endless Light" provides the perfect antidote. Not just one of the heaviest albums of 2019, it's a monument to the enduring might and majesty of slooooooow heavy metal riffs. We're all doomed anyway. Might as well take it easy, right?