“Timing is everything” might be a bit of a cliché, but it’s a well-worn phrase for good reason, and it’s one that comes to mind when talking about Castrator. Their early releases – the 2014 demo No Victim and 2015 EP, also called No Victim – arguably arrived just before the modern old-school death metal revival really got going. In the seven years since that last release there’s been a whole host of old-school death metal revival bands coming to prominence, meaning that Castrator maybe got forgotten about. As such it’s a pleasant surprise to see that they’ve back, having gone through some significant line-up changes but emerging now to release the full-length Defiled in Oblivion. Seven years is a long time in our dilated ever-moment, and when combined with a change in guitarist and vocalist, it makes it hard to know what to expect.
The good news, and obvious main point to take away, is that Defiled in Oblivion is really, really good. It touches on many of the familiar OSDM references – there’s plenty of Incantation and Immolation in the riffs, along with a touch of Suffocation, whilst a few of the solos clearly recall Morbid Angel (just check out the short yet mind-bending one around half-way through ‘Tyrant’s Verdict’ for a prime example). It blends the sinister aspects of death metal with a real, full-blooded aggression that is as suited for angrily stomping around as it is for marvelling at the technicality on display (without it ever becoming tech-death – Defiled in Oblivion is far too direct for that descriptor to ever apply!). Sure, the songs may coalesce into a bit of a blur of speed as pummelling riffs and dizzying solos fly by, but what a blur it is. If you enjoyed either of the previous No Victim releases, then Defiled in Oblivion is sure to satisfy. Despite the line-up changes, it largely picks up where the demo and EP left off, albeit with the kind of changes you’d hope for after seven years. The song writing feels tighter and more focused, and the improved production really gives the music the punch it deserves – each element has room to shine, yet it still feels claustrophobic and oppressive in the best way possible.
As with No Victim, feminist themes run throughout Defiled in Oblivion. As is typical for death metal, making out individual lyrics is practically impossible without the aid of a lyric sheet, but as with, say, Venom Prison, it’s good to know there are bands out there pushing back against some of the most sexist aspects of death metal. That’s not to say it’s all po-faced and deadly serious though, as the closing cover of Venom’s ‘Countess Bathory’ demonstrates – there’s nothing to say you can’t have fun whilst kicking back against the pricks.
It’s a genuine delight not just that Defiled in Oblivion exists, but that it’s so god-damned good. This is old-school death metal as it should be, clearly indebted to the bands who established the genre yet without ever sounding like anyone other than Castrator. The energy and righteous aggression of the album is impossible to deny, and it’s that more than anything which makes Defiled in Oblivion such a success. Castrator were at risk of being lost amongst the recent waves of OSDM revival bands, but Defiled in Oblivion should see them rise to the top, as this album is killer.
Defiled in Oblivion is out on Friday via Dark Descent Records.
Words: Stuart Wain