“Head Splattered in Seven Ways,” to wit, details an absurdist armed standoff between two dudes. All the death-metal hallmarks are present—vocals so violent you can practically hear the larynx rip, massive riffs that crash down in waves, cymbals that dance over tides of blast beats. As Jones demands answers from his victim, he repeats, “Tell me the truth,” the band making space for a refrain so barbed you may hum along the second time he coughs it up, even if this is the only death metal song you’ve ever heard.
Or there’s “Necrobionics,” the first of those two tunes about the mounting zombie army. The band is as agile as it is aggressive, with righteous guitarists Jared Welch and Kyle Beam stuffing a symphony of melodrama into their compact riffs. Jones perches above it all like some pop-star gargoyle, squealing “Piles of death/Corpses en masse.” He sells this ludicrous hook by treating each syllable like the opposite side of a melodic seesaw, a trick he might have learned from Rihanna’s “Umbrella” or any number of arena-sized anthems. Either way, it sticks, and it’s possible to imagine audiences not clad only in black shouting it back at Undeath.
This approachability is bigger than hooks. Beam is an intuitively crafty songwriter, tapping simple linguistic tools—alliteration, internal rhyme, rhythmic variety—to magnetize these morbid tales before they even reach the chorus. You get the narrative, even if you don’t understand every word. The band also wedges their own little mementos into these tracks. Bassist Tommy Wall (alongside Welch, new to Undeath for this LP) opens the record with a rumbling line that catches much like the start of the Breeders’ “Cannonball.” The buzzsaw riff of “The Funeral Within,” pushed to a devilish pace by drummer Matt Browning, is nearly as memorable as Jones’ chanted refrain, a rollercoaster of four rhyming lines about mortal sin and rotten skin. Undeath are here to have and supply a good time.
It’s fair to wonder why Undeath—who do very little that hasn’t been done for decades in death metal, no matter the oomph and conviction with which they do it—warrant either a big record deal or the sort of consensus accolades they’re enjoying, present paean included. At least in part, Undeath simply have the good luck of bad times. Their goofy, gory cemetery fantasies serve as welcome pressure-release valves for these fraught days. Undeath are playing games with death, the thing so many of us spend so much of our lives fretting. “Tissue from the brain was dead but is now alive,” Jones barks during “Enhancing the Dead,” the second of those two songs about an army of weaponized zombies. That’s also how It’s Time… To Rise From the Grave might make you feel—a little less worried about dying and a little more alive, at least for these 36 gleeful minutes.
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