Down Among The Dead Men - Exterminate! Annihilate! Destroy!

Down Among the Dead Men's debut album was a breath of fresh air. After so many years of death metal devolving into a mess of technicality and tryhard attempts to come across 'brutal', it was exhilerating to hear a record that put more of a focus on short, crust-ridden bursts of energy than overlong displays of ego-wankery. Hell, they even managed to tie with Onslaught for my album of 2013, which is no mean feat in itself - so after a painfully long two-year wait, Down Among the Dead Men have finally released Exterminate! Annihilate! Destroy! and yes, it's every bit as bollock-slappingly heavy as the first one was.

When marrying death metal with crust punk, you can't expect to get away with lashings of experimentation; crust by its very nature is short, to-the-point and relatively simplistic by nature, and the so-called 'old school' death metal sound isn't drastically different from that, so one could ponder how such a sound could be evolved naturally. But as the old saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it - DATDM's debut was spot on, and Exterminate! Annihilate! Destroy! simply follows in its footsteps while boasting a little more refinement to the formula and a sillier album title. Exfoliate! Enuncuate! Employ! may not have advanced too greatly in the songwriting department, but it proudly wears its influences on its sleeve - Discharge and Anvil covers aside, the entire record reeks of Doom and Amebix like its predecessor while flaunting the heavy, no-nonsense death metal edge that the bands members have become reknowned for.

Rogga Johansson, of every death metal band ever, has probably released at least four other releases this year alone (exactly that many, in fact) and they're probably all bloody amazing, but his approach with DATDM has always been incredible - just listen to the riffing going on with War Machines, Tooth And Claw or The Oncoming Storm and you'll see what I mean. The man lives and breathes unrelenting metal riffs and given the sheer volume of music he puts out, I'm surprised he has enough time in the day to wipe his ass. Then there's the other star of the show, Mr Dave Ingram (for the last damn time, no relation) who's still sounding fucking incredible to this day, belting out lines with pure rage and raw emotion like a bear trying to open a dairylea triangle and blatantly loving every single second of it. This may well have something to do with the album hosting a mindboggling number of Doctor Who references, a series which Ding-Dang-Dongly-Dingram is unashamedly in love with - christ, The Oncoming Storm's bassline is pretty much just a punk rendition of the shows theme - but hey, they proudly hold up the rest of their influences for all of us to see, so why not? The last album was an impressive performance, but Procrastinate! Hibernate! Decoy! may well show everybody at their absolute best, even above their more well-known back catalogues. Sod Benediction and Ribspreader, THIS is where it's at, people!

I guess one complaint that could be made here is that the album is lacking the two tracks from this years split single with Miseo. Granted, such things are fun for exclusivity and it's far from a dealbreaker, but those songs were bloody good and their omission is a little disappointing. But let's cut the crap: Down Among the Dead Men have pulled another bunny out of their magic hat (albeit one with no eyes or fur, with its guts hanging out of its arse) that doesn't overstay its welcome and does exactly what it says on the tin. It may not be a radical departure from the last one, it may not be the heaviest, the most technical or the most boundary-challenging release the genre has to offer, but it's good, honest, true-to-the-heart death metal that'll put a smile on your face. By far one of the best albums of 2015.

1. Pyramids Of Mars
2. Warriors Of The Deep
3. The Oncoming Storm
4. The Ambassadors Of Death
5. Forged In Fire (cover Anvil)
6. Arc Of Infinity
7. Death Seed
8. War Machines
9. Unearthly Child
10. Tooth And Claw
11. Armageddon Factor
12. Protest And Survive (cover Discharge)
13. Deadly Assassin
14. Exterminate! Annihilate! Destroy!