In 2018 Coffin Rites, then Coffinrot, (a name change brought on most likely due to confusion and potential future copyright issues, which is incredibly unfortunate as Coffinrot is a hella cool name, and I still have a few of their T-shirts, which now refer to Coffin Rot and not Coffinrot or Coffin Rites) released their album Retribution Divine, a speedy Blackened Death infused Thrashapalooza of soul trashing black sorcery. Based in Minneapolis, the band received local acclaim as well as a dedicated following throughout the Midwest, especially here in Omaha after repeated visits to the metro area, including one shoddily filmed, but expertly performed Xenofest III. You can thank yours truly for the incredibly bad camera work. Since then, the band has taken up a bit of social activism, releasing covers of Nazi Punks Fuck Off, as well as the Sepultura classic Refuse/Resist, the latter including a music video featuring footage from the George Floyd Protests. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5c9uWuswOY)
Okay, we’re all caught up now, onto the review.
Human Erase sports a few changes to the Coffin Rites formula, with one of the biggest being new guitarist Taylor Haasgensen, replacing ex-guitarist Eric. While the guitars don’t seem to stray too far from the formula, as a large portion of the album was written with Eric, Taylor fits right in and performs beautifully along with fellow guitarist Will Maravelas, a major driving force if not the driving force of the band. While the lineup change shakes things up a bit, the biggest change to the formula happens to be vocalist Drew Blood’s glow up. While his past performances in their previous works were not bad in the slightest, they lacked a bit of character and nuance to them, and as a result felt a bit generic. Fortunately Drew’s performance here is incredibly distinct, bringing catacomb levels of depth to the album. His highs flap their tattered leathery wings circling above your head, while his lows wrap their bony fingers around your ankle pulling you down into their earthen domain. Yes, I will be fawning over his vocals this entire review!
This album also sports a shiny new mix, which is a slightly needed upgrade from Retribution divine. The guitars sound incredibly honed, and don’t over or underdo it with the mids, providing enough space for the bass and drums to shine through. And speaking of drums and bass, there is a huge improvement in the quality of their sound, as the lows are significantly beefed up. The drums especially pack a punch, sounding a bit less tinny and more cannon-like, able to blast holes into the average egotistical, overindulgent guitar player. The bass, which at points got a little lost in the guitars in Retribution, is now easily distinguishable from the pack, and stands out where needed, especially in tracks like Cryogenic Awakening, and the title track. Lastly, there is a thick layer of reverb over most of the vocals, which at first listen is a bit hokey, but really adds to the distinct vocal stylings on the album putting the crypt in cryptic.
Setting the tone for the album, Buried in Blood thrashes in with a speedy skull ripping tremolo riff, and the rest of the track follows this up with some more killer riffs, especially when they bring it down a few notches on the tempo. This track is a great start to the album and is a showcase of the classic Coffin Rites sound, though from here on they expand upon it.
Next up is Cryogenic Awakening which has one of the more memorable choruses. This is the first point where Drew's new vocal stylings become more prominent, and the track is flavored with a bit more black metal than the previous. There is a slowdown section which brings the song to an abrupt halt, but it super works for the track. It’s like you're in a speeding car that suddenly slams on the brakes leaving you with whiplash and a never-quite-right after that neck. The Bass really stands out in this piece with it's rolling licks prowling through the dark sonic forest. I really enjoy the theme of this one, as I’m a big sci-fi horror nerd.
Killing Time and Space is a prime showcase of Drew's vocals. His highs are a great fit and his lows are especially impressive over the rapid-fire low section laden with reverb midway through the song. The dual guitar black metal sections in the piece go hard!
Heart of Darkness is very much The Metalcore Song. It is a bit out of place, but not bad in the slightest, and only proves that the band has a mastery over multiple genres. Drew does a great job bridging the gap between the thrashy blackened death sound with the more metalcore guitar stylings. Heart of Darkness harkens back to Darkest Hour mid-oughts metal and manages to be one of the more standout tracks The end solo is also one of the best solos on the album.
Following my favorite track on the album is a great little acoustic ditty that serves to break up the album a bit. I can see this fitting on an Iron Maiden album or even a Panopticon record, especially with it's earthy acoustic tones and scenic sound effects. The Night Speaks, and it says take a breather, because you're gonna need it.
Mask of Sanity brings things back to the realm of blackened death/thrash. There is an interesting section where the guitars are playing triplets over the top of the drums in a speedy tempo'ed 4/4 and gives the illusion that the section is in ¾. It's a brilliant bit of layering that works to give a sense of unease within the listener. The band is forcing their listeners to make the choice to either headbang at 4/4 or 3/4. I for one am choosing 3/4.
Last Nail in the Coffin: is this an Obituary piece? I could have sworn this was Redneck Stomp. I'm not sure I like this Caught in a Mosh-esque riff throughout the song, as it comes off a bit too cheesy for my liking. Luckily, there's this sweet solo section with rhythm guitars that play out like a Powertrip song. I know, that's a lot of comparisons to unpack, but yeah, you'll hear it. The final section brings the house down though switching between halftime and full on blast beats. Mixed feelings all around, but the positives outweigh the corny by quite a bit.
Season of the Bone Harvest! What a bitchin ass title. Drew has more speedy low sections to chew through in this one. I love it! I could listen to Drew's speedy dungeon dwelling, drag racing lows all day.
Next track is Beginning of the End. Hey, I used to have a band with a similar name, then we changed it to Bloodbath and Beyond. Don't look it up! We never managed to make our clash of styles work like these guys did. This one's another clean cut interlude, this time on reverb soaked clean electric guitars. It's another great spot to break up the album and does a great job hyping up the final track.
Human Erase: did I mention that the title of this album rules? It sets the tone perfectly. This one's got some vocal layering going on that adds quite a bit of complexity to this otherwise pretty straightforward track. The bass shines through quite a bit in this one. It's not my favorite track on the album, as it kind of feels like it was written first, before a lot of the innovation happened in the writing process, but it does a great job of wrapping up the album.
Overall Human Erase is a shining example of the power of Blackened Death Thrash, managing to stand out above the pack, without following into some of the pitfalls of its predecessor. While there are a few spots that are hokey, the performances outshine these spots, and the tracks manage to stand out from each other with excellent songwriting; as well as some help from the two mood-setting interlude tracks that help break up the album. Coffin Rites bring the slime, sludge, and rot of the crypts to the surface with this banger!
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