Maybe we’re not missing out after all. Twenty years late, Gorelust are following up their debut album with We are the Undead. After struggling to make a go of it in the deepening death metal pool of the mid-90s, the band dissolved for the usual reasons. Nevertheless, the story goes that about half of the songs on We are the Undead were written before the breakup — written for whatever album was originally planned. Gorelust are revisiting material that may be twenty years old, but they’re actually resurrecting themselves along with it. Is We are the Undead good death metal by 1995 standards? Is it good dead metal by 2015 standards? Yes, yes it is.
It was internet interest (surprise) that motivated the band’s resurrection, which also explains my awareness of it. Yet Gorelust aren’t appealing to nostalgia so much as doing what they would have had they been given the chance. There’s a direct line between this album and their 1995 debut, Reign of Lunacy. They succeeded in the Blues Brothers dream of ‘getting the band back together’, with the original members who seem thrilled to be playing together again.
There are also references to themes from the debut beyond the resurrection implied by the title itself. The cover directly references Reign by using the same tableau of horror with the bloody piano and dripping pentagram on the floor, albeit with some glossily-gored victims and a new curlicue logo to update things.
“Lunacy Still Prevails” starts the album and is yet another reference to its predecessor, but also its era. The track is just a couple of minutes of senseless spooky noise with random, menacing chords below and the odd patter of drums. It’s an intro, but it’s also a continuation of every other senseless, time-wasting intro that was pasted onto every death metal album ever.
Then the album really starts, and suddenly, it doesn’t matter if Gorelust are following a template going in because it works at full-fucking-blast. The intimacy of the record is immediate; the drums hit first, an entirely welcoming barrage where you can hear every blast, roll, and hairy thud, pushing you into the center of the room where these four dudes are exorcising twenty years of demons. Avoiding today’s crystal clarity, We are the Undead has a warm, upfront sound unusual in brutal death that wraps itself around you. It;s how the album goes, with the drums high in the mix driving the songs, roll after blasting roll of grinding, churning speed that seems somehow off-balanced but totally in time.
Avoiding slams but not death-roll throwdowns, not overly techy but with tonnes of bright spots, We are the Undead happily drags its knuckles into the present. Gorelust have finally found the sweet spot beyond what their debut offered. “Rape the Rapist,” “Farewell to the Flesh,” and “There is No God” aren’t revolutionary in their composition, but there are always drums rumbling away, complemented by chunky, chugging riffs with whammy-bar dive bombs to make it a pleasure, especially with that bass string-slap echoing back there.
Everything feels grounded. This evenness is throughout the album, so that even lead growler Jean Beaulieu’s vocal acrobatics are interwoven, instead of just being laid over top. This is evidence of what Gorelust was and what they do well. Given the inevitable tour and further time together, it’ll be interesting to see what the band will accomplish when they look ahead instead of to the past.