Unmerciful is a Kansas-based brutal death metal band. Put bluntly, they are a five-piece bucket of audio onslaught founded in 2001. Wrath Encompassed is the band’s third full-length release and debut album on Willowtip Records.
In 2006, I was lucky to watch Unmerciful perform alongside Cannibal Corpse, Dying Fetus and Necrophagist in Montreal. At 16, my friends and I got a ride to The Medley from one of our dads. It was a night filled with some of the top names in death metal and Unmerciful. A band that none of us had heard of at the time. Who would have thought 14 years later I would be reviewing an album of theirs, or that I’d never see Necrophagist again…
Seconds into the first track, “Incineration,” the production brings me back to the first wave of death metal from the late 80s and early 90s. The vocal deliveries of Jeremy Turner and Clinton Appelhanz bring to mind classic Glen Benton and Frank Mullen from Decide and Suffocate, respectively. You can hear the influences of those bands, and a splatter of Cannibal Corpse, bleed through the riffs. Despite the length of time since their last release, Unmerciful have not forgotten their craft. You could easily put them alongside modern bands (Outre-Tombe, Gruesome, and Mammoth Grinder) that are bringing back that authentic death metal sound.
“Blazing Hatred” kicks off with blistering speed and technicality while continuing the brutality set in place by the opening track. It also reminds me of the shredding style of Nocturnus and Death. “Predator to Prey” stomps you to the ground from the start with slamming riffs and blast beats.
The title track, “Wrath Encompassed,” continues the trend of great intros set in place on this album. However, by the time I hit “Carnage Unleashed,” I’m experiencing listener fatigue due to the constant barrage of brutality and lack of dynamic songwriting and catchy hooks. There’s no down time on this album. It’s in your face and doesn’t apologize for it.
When “Oblivious Descent” starts my attention is back thanks to another great intro, but the songwriting lacks the dynamics I had mentioned as it proceeds.
“Inexorable Decay” is the strongest track on the record. A catchy hook, great riffing, and a breather before ravaging your ears one final time with leads and slams before the album closes.
Unmerciful didn’t surprise me on this outing. A lack of dynamic songwriting took me out of a few tracks. Wrath Encompassed is not a bad album, but a victim of its own style that you can take or leave. The album boasts plenty of great riffs, shredding leads, slams, and dizzying technicality. That being said, it has all been done before, and this album lacks a stamp of true originality to set it apart from its peers.
There is nothing wrong with revisiting the classic sound of death metal, but originality and digression from the formula would have benefited this album.
Favorite Songs: “Oblivious Descent” and “Predator to Prey”
Release Date: 4/24/2020
Label: Willowtip Records
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Forest is the vocalist for Killborn, a melodic death metal band from Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada.