Taking their name from the notorious Victorian-era homeless shelters, Scottish/Greek trio Penny Coffin play a dirty, blackened and decidedly old school take on death metal whose sound echoes the claustrophobia of the shelters and their coffin-shaped beds. Their debut EP, ΤΕΦΡΑ, translates roughly to “human ashes” and showcases a rough-hewn sound that takes inspiration from various places and distills it into their own abrasive, haunting take on death metal.
Opener ‘Smog’ careens into view with a tumbling drum fill before desolate howls and furious riffs make themselves known. There’s more than a little debt owed to black metal from the almost tremolo guitars and the blastbeats. This, combined with the murky, almost animalistic growls combine to form a uniquely unsettling atmosphere. The blackened influences are especially pronounced around the midway point, where it breaks into something that wouldn’t be out of place on a rawer, bedroom black metal project. That’s certainly not a criticism; it’s a foreboding, tense passage that only relents when the song ends.
Second track ‘Bootlicker’ opens with a churning riff and rapid-fire double bass drumming. It’s death metal of the most old-school variety with cavernous roars and a massive groove. Penny Coffin keep the rhythm tightly locked in throughout its runtime, not really deviating from the stomping, mid-paced tempo. It’s the weakest song here but there’s still plenty to like for good, OSDM fun.
Closer ‘Confinement’ is a sprawling, seven minute beast that lumbers into view with a doom-infused stomp that occasionally morphs into a visceral chug. Vocally it’s the same distorted, bilious roar that sounds as if it’s coming from inside one of the four penny coffins they take their name from. It takes the sludgier elements hinted at on the previous tracks and dials them up to eleven, as well as throwing in a menacing guitar melody from about the four minute mark. The song moves into an acoustic outro with distorted spoken word for its final minute, offering some respite from the aural battering they dealt out before collapsing into discomforting feedback in its final seconds.
As a debut statement of intent, there’s a lot to like about ΤΕΦΡΑ; the band have a definite ability to fold in haunting melody as well as knowing their way around a riff. With ‘Smog’ and ‘Confinement’ they also show there’s more strings to their bow than bog-standard OSDM revival, which has been de rigeur for the past few years. All in all, it’s an interesting start for the band, a good way to whet the appetite for what could come next.
ΤΕΦΡΑ is out now and can be ordered here.
Words: Will Marshall