LAY DOWN ROTTEN – Mask of Malice
My first exposure to this German death metal quintet, the sixth studio album “Mask Of Malice” has much in common with the classic 90’s era of Swedish template Edge Of Sanity- an act who ran the flagpole for melody, punk and alternative outlooks to the conventional speed, blast and growl framework. Vocalist Jose Kleinert has a deep roar from the cauldron, his delivery and phrasing combines the best elements of Barney Greenway, Dan Swano and Johan Hegg. Musically Lay Down Rotten excel at the down tuned , mid-paced riffing with the occasional blast burst to keep the death mongers growling with glee.
Drummer Timo Claas immediately rolls out all the tools of the trade on opener “Deathchain”- variant double bass, a smattering of blast beats and then the strong semblance of thrash and groove parts that make the song engaging and instantaneous. Bassist Uwe Kilian fills in the bottom end needs to doom-like capacity on “…And Out Come The Wolves”, giving the Daniel Seifert/ Nils Forster axe slinging duo a chance to run a series of heavier, crushing rhythms and melodic spices against your brain and body. Jose uses his voice as another distinct, discernable weapon in Lay Down Rotten’s style, sending chills down your spine on standouts like “Swallow The Bitterness” and “The Devil Grins”- the latter of which could have been an alternate cut on Edge Of Sanity’s “Purgatory Afterglow”.
This is one of the sub-genres of the melodic death movement I firmly respect- the basic arrangements are very hook oriented and the layers of subtle progressive play force you as a listener to want to re-engage immediately after the album ends. Economical at 42 minutes, “Mask Of Malice” is another essential slice of European death metal- the new generation obsessed with instrumental prowess needs to hear this as a textbook to songwriting basics 101.