SCORE: 7/10


Meatheaded, ignorant, bruising. This hardly sounds like the highest praise, but for a death metal record, words like this denote a very specific kind of unpretentious, bruising fun. This isn’t to dismiss or denigrate the subgenre in any form – this repulsive, in-your-face attitude and style is precisely the appeal, and when done well it is an utter riot. From classic outfits like Cannibal Corpse, to modern champions of unintelligent brutality like 200 Stab Wounds and Scorched, this niche of senseless riffing is a rich, albeit uncomplicated vein of modern metal. 

Kruelty, though something of an unknown to western audiences, are one of Japan’s newest and most prolific bands in this mold. Forming in 2017, the band have already produced multiple EPs, splits and a full length record released earlier this year, and suffice to say, quantity has not had any adverse effect on quality. Blending the percussive and brutal sound synonymous with Japanese metallic hardcore with a more death metal-adjacent aesthetic, their output is immediately reminiscent of outfits like Gatecreeper or Xibalba. However, far from simply another decent addition to the increasingly rich crop of bands blending hardcore and death metal, Kruelty’s Immortal Nightmare is an impressive step forward for the band.

the band are at their most potent on this new handful of songs

Whilst none of the tracks on Immortal Nightmare are original songs, featuring two re-recorded, reworked iterations of some tracks from 2019, and a cover of the Grave song ‘Into the Grave’, the band are at their most potent on this new handful of songs. Now with live drums, ‘Desire’ and ‘Narcolepsy’ feel fuller, punchier and dirtier, whilst the mixing, courtesy of Taylor Young (Xibalba, NAILS, Palm), perfectly balances rhythmic precision with caveman riffs. This addresses perhaps the biggest shortfalling of their prior full length release, A DYING TRUTH, bulking out what was a slightly muddier mix, and allowing the band’s instrumental assault to shine on every front. 

The cover of Grave a highlight, providing a full-force D-beat assault, rejuvinating the swedish band’s grand composition by leaning into Kruelty’s hardcore background. Retaining some of the atmospheric theatrics of the original song, the band infuse the latter part of the track with a cyclical and crushing beatdown, effectively modernising an excellent piece of Scandinavian death metal for a modern hardcore audience. It is this seamless fusion of old and new that makes this EP such a compelling set of tracks, and a marked improvement on Kruelty’s earlier output, feeling more cohesive and refined than previous releases.

on Immortal Nightmare, Kruelty offers a slab of meaty, knuckle-dragging and thoroughly enjoyable improvements to their back-catalogue

It needs to be said that this EP is far from the most original contribution to the death metal genre in 2020. The three tracks here aren’t terribly distinct compositions, all three leaning into similar structures, build-ups and payoffs, but this is to be expected of a band of this style. Whilst the percussion is strong enough, and at times restrained in a way that really keeps the composition of the tracks clear and uncluttered, there is room for a little more rhythmic variety to be toyed with here. The same can be said for the guitars, as whilst this uncomplicated style plays well over a 15-minute EP, it may become a little repetitive when stretched to lengthier releases.

The band clearly wears their influences on their sleeves, and far from the lofty conceptual goals of other modern death metal artists like Blood Incantation, this is explicitly a no-nonsense handful of tracks crafted for the pit. If heavy hardcore or death metal aren’t yet your cup of tea, Kruelty’s single-minded brutality is unlikely to be the best gateway to the genre. However, the lack of pretence to being something greater often has its place, and on Immortal Nightmare, Kruelty offers a slab of meaty, knuckle-dragging and thoroughly enjoyable improvements to their back-catalogue.

Immortal Nightmare is out now via CREATOR-DESTRUCTOR RECORDS



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