ROTTEN COFFIN – The Agony In Slumber
RELEASE YEAR: 2023
BAND URL: https://rottencoffin.bandcamp.com/
You may ask why I am reviewing a 2022 album in the middle of 2023. After all, the debut full length from this Portuguese death metal trio was released on December 10th by Escaravelho Records last year to follow the independent demo Suffering, Chaos And Death²⁰²¹. However, Bitter Loss Records had re-released it 6 days later and then released it on vinyl on March 15th this year so, by technicality, this is a 2023 release.
What have we here? Basically, we’re going for that classic old school death metal vibe from the late 80s and early 90s – some Death, some Obituary, Asphyx and Carcass, everything doused with a bit of Paradise Lost and Hypocrisy for good measure. Sergey “Devourer” Koreshkov (vocals, lyrics), Guilherme Abreu (bass, keyboards, guitars), Zé Rodrigues (guitars, bass) and former Aggressor and session Polish drummer Krzysztof Klingbein created a brutal offering with a few memorable moments with Side B noticeably stronger and more creative than Side A. In fact, until the mid-album interlude I had a hard time distinguishing the tracks which sets the justification for the final score, but, fortunately, Rotten Coffin can surprise and they do with the excellent “Metamorphic” which reeks of classic Carcass and early 90s Death and then, as if the band learned how to write great songs halfway through, the title track follows the suit with increasing melody, hooks and variety, in other words, everything that was missing from the first half. And, finally, “Uniting Worlds Within” successfully merges death and black metal for the most original track on the record, but everything is just a little too little too late.
While, then, Rotten Coffin does not paralyze with sonic originality, they do stand out from the death metal fare with unique lyrical tapestry, as if to follow the lead of the late Death maestro Chuck Schuldiner from Spiritual Healing¹⁹⁹⁰ onward. Reading the lyrics I detect the influence of some contemporary spiritual sages like Neale Daniel Walsh from “Conversations With God”, James Redfield from “The Celestine Prophecy” or even Eckhart Tolle and his “Power Of Now”. The concept could be summed up by the French philosopher, paleontologist, and Jesuit priest who thought deeply on the meaning of our existence and relationship with the Divine when he quipped that “we are not human beings having a spiritual experience but spiritual beings having a human experience.” The thought pervades “The Agony In Slumber” as “we keep our minds in slumber eternally” while “the sleep of reason produces monsters” so we should strive to “be in the Present of reality” which is “the only thing that really has no end” and where “your personal Eternity” dwells, but it’s “Uniting Worlds Within”, again, sonically and compositionally the album’s most unique and ambitious track while also the last song proper, which reads like a theological mini treatise which asserts that “the supreme spirit cannot find expression” its “creative powers enormous and unquenchable” that “He is everywhere, He is everything”, grows with grass flies with birds, walks on water like on dry land moves the mountains (an allusion to the Son Of God Jesus Christ?), “soars into the sky”, “He is fire water, earth and air…a genius…the highest sense of man” (again, possibly alluding to Jesus Christ who is the reflection of God’s glory, and the exact representation of his nature” per Hebrews 1:3) as “each soul tends to cognize thing-in-itself from within” and from its perspective the dreams of union” so that “the curse of the profane” becomes “an empty sentence” while “the curse of the adept is full of hidden meaning”. His “creative impulse can result in some kind of violent act which will be insanity which will be a disaster” thus “mind becomes the soul of the Universe uniting worlds within” which is the sacrament subconscious tendency” which takes root in very soul”, all that from the same mind who opens the album alluding to “the Nineteenth Key” which “contains the text of the original curse on creation” as “each phrase formulates some calamity” as he shudders at its horror as he recites it but concludes with a claim that not only the rationality of millenniums” but “also their madness, breaketh out in us”. Yet, the mind is not so naive as to forget that “in the name of God many brave men are ready to die” and “even more are ready to slay” (Grim Megalith) and that we’re all always “balancing between miracle and horror” (Where The Souls Dwell). How profoundly atypical for a classic death metal band with a name Rotten Coffin!
In all, “The Agony In Slumber” will find fans with the lovers of classic death metal of the late 80s and early 90s, especially of the Morrisound Floridian ore but I doubt it will captivate the ears of those who are looking for groundbreaking progression in the genre. And, while I am clearly impressed by the lyrical maturity of this band, musically, I expect more from my death metal.