Baest – Venenum (Century Media)

With 2018’s debut, Danse Macabre, Baest affirmed their status as a rising force in European death metal – and the Danes have been quick to build on the momentum with the release of Venenum. Once again, the young quintet have shown that they are far more connected to the spirit of old school DM than many of their contemporaries – and we’re not just talking about their rabid cover of Bolt Thrower’s No Guts No Glory, which bookends this album.

The title track and Empty Throne, for instance, see the Aarhus boys push the blasphemous groove of Morbid Angel into a Swedish meat grinder, to gloriously twisted effect. Svend Karlsson and Lasse Revsbech’s guitars are like two serrated blades, sawing their way through their bandmates’ muscular rhythms in a manner akin to Anglo-Scandinavian supergroup Bloodbath.

And on As Above So Below – a tribute to Death’s Chuck Schuldiner – the pair move into more progressive and melodic territory, stretching their fretwork to bring new hues to Baest’s gory palette.

Venenum, though, doesn’t reach DM nirvana throughout. Opener Vitriol Lament is a blast furnace of a song, but its effect is somewhat neutered by follow-up, Gula, which is marred by a dull, plodding rhythm and one of the album’s least inspired riffs. The track is an unusual choice, especially when you know that Baest have plenty in the locker. They’re at the best when cranking our snappier ditties such as Nihil, rather then getting bogged down in God Of Emptiness-flavoured gloop.

Overall, though, this is an assured effort. It shows little sign of ‘difficult second album’ syndrome and stands up tall in a year dominated by emerging DM acts such as Tomb Mold and Vitriol.

Baest’s ascent continues.