Finland has a strange relationship with metal. On one hand, it is responsible for cheesy, melodramatic garbage like Children of Bodom and Nightwish. No disrespect Children of Bodom or Nightwish fans (I was actually pretty big into Bodom myself when I was 16), it’s just that I can feel my intestines clog when I listen to their music. And it’s a very uncomfortable feeling.
But on the other hand, it is also responsible for some of the most twisted, dark, depraved metal the genre has ever seen. Convulse. Adramelech. Rippikoulu. Demilich, whose only album is my favorite death metal album of all time. Beherit, to whom the bestial black metal genre owes a great deal. Reverend Bizarre, the band that made doom metal “cool” for an entire generation of metalheads.
In particular, it is the Finnish take on death metal that really appeals to me. Their scene made a name for itself by being dark, sludgy, and downright evil; there is no joy to be found anywhere on Musta Seremonia or World Without God. The few bands that broke from that mold were twisted and alien (see: Demilich – Nespithe and Adramelech – Psychostasia). Where the Swedish bands typically went for melodic and thrashy/punky, the Finns went for doomy, ugly, and filthy. And I absolutely love it.
That love for the Finndeath sound was initially a source of disappointment for me when I first put on Rotten Heart of Evil, the debut release from one-man-band Stranglion Rot (as well as one of the first three albums put out by Fatal Judgement Records). But that’s really my own damn fault; I went in expecting the stereotypical Finndeath sound, and that’s just not what Stranglion Rot does. While it is obviously influenced by the Convulse/Rippikoulu school of death metal riffing, multi-instrumentalist Hietala opts for a faster, thrashier feel instead of the slower, chunky pace used by most of his countrymen.
Fortunately for him, it didn’t take much to win me over. It is very, very easy to headbang to this album, and that is always a plus when dealing with metal. As I mentioned, there are definitely nods to the Finndeath bands of yore, but I also hear tons of Dismember and bits of Darkthrone and Immortal as well. The album is very short (eight songs at less than 23 minutes), but that’s not a complaint; I often find that faster-paced albums like this are most effective when they’re shorter. I could complain about the lack of bass presence on the album, but the rawer production works in their favor, so I won’t.
Rotten Heart of Evil is some damn solid death metal, and Stranglion Rot could have a bright future if Hietala keeps it up. Download it from their Bandcamp page and see for yourself.