Swallowed Whole - Megalomania review




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Reviewer:
8.0

4 users:
7.25
Band: Swallowed Whole
Album: Megalomania
Release date: March 2018


01. Ashurnasirpal
02. Leopold II
03. Maximilien Robespierre
04. Hong Xiuquan
05. Domitian
06. Tamerlane
07. Talaat Pasha
08. Jim Jones


Extreme doom, one of my absolute favorite areas of the metal spectrum, often seems to be an area where crafting truly engaging, standout releases is proving increasingly difficult for musicians. Perhaps that feeling is owed to the fact that I listen to so much of it, perhaps to the fact that there truly is some "hidden formula" that's incredibly difficult for musicians to pull off, or perhaps both. Put simply, it's an area of the metal spectrum where the line between the "good" releases and the "great" releases is carved pretty firmly in stone. Thankfully, this year Swallowed Whole is stepping up to show people exactly where that line is carved.

A fairly new one man project of an individual known only as "Atrox," Swallowed Whole is a colossal, frightening maelstrom of (predominantly) doom, black, and death metal. This debut album, Megalomania, reveals many of its overarching themes from the cover art, album, and track titles alone. A bleak, red and black image of a presumable ruler standing atop a massive pyramid before the ruled greets viewers. Track titles referencing ruthless, manipulative tyrants across human history, from Assyria to China to the Belgian Congo, construct the album. This is a dark release, and one that clearly seeks to explore the darker roots of humanity's seemingly insatiable lust for power and the domination of others over time. Indeed, this is an endeavor at which Atrox largely succeeds. A filthy, ravenous sound dominates Megalomania, at times slow, plodding, and painful ("Hong Xiuqan," "Ashurnasirpal") and at others incredibly riff heavy, upbeat, and frenetic, more embracing of the underlying death and black metal influences ("Leopold II," "Jim Jones"). The most interesting feature, however, has to be the fact that Atrox also includes minor atmospheric and melodic breaks throughout the album as well, "Maximilien Robespierre" perhaps being the best example. This technique is admittedly utilized minimally, but it works wonderfully towards adding an extra dimension to the music that gives it a lot more lasting power than other "we play doom and growl for 50 minutes" type bands have.

Having said this, Megalomania is not without its faults, even if they are rather minor in the grand scheme of things. The production especially may be off putting to many, being incredibly murky, lo fi, and, quite frankly overwhelming at many points throughout the album. While this initially bothered me, after repeated listens I somewhat came to believe that really nothing less than this particular production technique would be suitable here, given the lyrical content of the album. Much like other bands one could point to, such as Autokrator or Anaal Nathrakh for instance, the murk and the filth helps to reinforce how terrifying and repulsive the themes being explored are in the first place. Additionally, I personally would have preferred more tracks like "Leopold II" and "Jim Jones" here, that feel a little groovier and really pull off a much tighter fusion between the doom, death, and black than is found elsewhere on the album. Hopefully with refinement in the future, Atrox will push Swallowed Whole more in this direction.

Overall, Megalomania is a release that is quite powerful and frightening for extreme doom. Where many bands that purvey this type of music lately seem to have been shifting more toward exploring atmosphere and melody, Swallowed Whole enters the picture with an album that returns to the style's more malevolent and unrelenting origins, while also hinting at greater layering and more detailed composition techniques in the future. Megalomania certainly won't end up being made for everyone, but if you're a fan of truly hard hitting, dreary music, don't let this one pass you by.

"To me death is not a fearful thing. It's living that is cursed."
~ Cyanide Kool-Aid Man


Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 8
Production: 8


 



Written on 08.05.2018 by Comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable since 2013.


Comments

Comments: 8   Visited by: 68 users
08.05.2018 - 17:43
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
I actually love the way this album sounds. One of the most abrasive records I've heard, bordering on death industrial.
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Professor Isak Borg: And the punishment?
The Examiner: I don't know. The usual, I suppose.
Professor Isak Borg: The usual?
The Examiner: Loneliness.
Professor Isak Borg: Loneliness?
The Examiner: Precisely.
Professor Isak: Is there no mercy?
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08.05.2018 - 17:45
Apothecary
PsyCHEdelic
Written by RaduP on 08.05.2018 at 17:43

I actually love the way this album sounds. One of the most abrasive records I've heard, bordering on death industrial.

It kind of does have a bit of an industrial edge to it as well, doesn't it? It's in the guitar tone and riffing style, very gritty and mechanical. Admittedly that may be why I name dropped Autokrator here as well because that particular tone reminds me of their debut a lot.
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This is the water, and this is the well
Drink full and descend
The horse is the white of the eyes, and dark within
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08.05.2018 - 18:25
VIG
Esoteric Zachism
Why did you add this atrocious band?? (see what I did there ) Seriously, this is horrible. But in general I am not a fan of raw music.
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08.05.2018 - 18:26
Apothecary
PsyCHEdelic
Written by VIG on 08.05.2018 at 18:25

Why did you add this atrocious band?? (see what I did there ) Seriously, this is horrible. But in general I am not a fan of raw music.

Because it's a fine example of a band where rawness serves to reinforce the power and impact of the lyrical themes being explored, as I said in the review. We had this discussion a little before when I shared the album on FB and honestly I disagree with the idea that some other type of production aspect would have been suitable here. I suppose you could explore the idea of "ferocious leaders throughout human history" from a more melancholic, lamenting, and atmospheric type of production too but..... something makes me feel as though that just wouldn't be quite as effective in getting the point across.
----
This is the water, and this is the well
Drink full and descend
The horse is the white of the eyes, and dark within
Loading...
08.05.2018 - 18:55
VIG
Esoteric Zachism
Written by Apothecary on 08.05.2018 at 18:26

We had this discussion a little before when I shared the album on FB and honestly I disagree with the idea that some other type of production aspect would have been suitable here. I suppose you could explore the idea of "ferocious leaders throughout human history" from a more melancholic, lamenting, and atmospheric type of production too but..... something makes me feel as though that just wouldn't be quite as effective in getting the point across.


I disagree. I think a very clean production could work here and still sound melancholic and atmospheric. Look at a band like Elysian Blaze.
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08.05.2018 - 18:59
Apothecary
PsyCHEdelic
Written by VIG on 08.05.2018 at 18:55

I disagree. I think a very clean production could work here and still sound melancholic and atmospheric. Look at a band like Elysian Blaze.

Elysian Blaze isn't really dealing with topics nearly as horrific as what's going on here though, that's my point. So yes, the more clean production works in that case.... but in that case, those are the key words.
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This is the water, and this is the well
Drink full and descend
The horse is the white of the eyes, and dark within
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08.05.2018 - 19:00
VIG
Esoteric Zachism
Written by Apothecary on 08.05.2018 at 18:59

Elysian Blaze isn't really dealing with topics nearly as horrific as what's going on here though, that's my point. So yes, the more clean production works in that case.... but in that case, those are the key words.

But I never thought of music as having to sound like the topic it's about. To each his own.
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08.05.2018 - 19:07
Apothecary
PsyCHEdelic
Written by VIG on 08.05.2018 at 19:00

I never thought of music as having to sound like the topic it's about. To each his own.

I'm a firm believer in that idea, perhaps because I have a background in writing I'd guess. The lyrical and the musical (if it's a band with lyrics) should reinforce and flow into each other. It doesn't really matter which comes first, but in my opinion a furious riff that comes out of a musician should be set to lyrics exploring darker, more savage themes. Conversely, lyrics that appear very introspective, spiritually focused, etc., wouldn't exactly work that well (though they certainly could) over like..... thrash or grindcore style riffing. I believe there are auras that are set by both music and lyrics that one has to play off if the other comes first, and I think that doing so is a sign of a great composer.

But sure, to each their own man
----
This is the water, and this is the well
Drink full and descend
The horse is the white of the eyes, and dark within
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