Watching the video for Crawling In The Dirt, the lead song on this Belgian crew’s second album, you’d be forgiven for thinking Gruesome Masterpiece might live up to its name.
The track cruises relentlessly along on an entirely headbang-worthy riff. And there are plenty more top riffs to come from Toon Heut and Jeroen De Vriese – most notably on Twist The Knife, Fucked Up Avenue and catchy chugger Room Without A View in the mould of the Exodus classic And Then There Were None.
Yet the album’s slower material weakens the buzz, especially in the case of dreary nine-minute doomer Morphine Dreams. And there’s a bigger, more bewildering, problem here with Peggy Meeussen’s vocals – or, rather, the way they’ve been recorded. On the band’s 2013 debut Face The Evil, her gutsy work was clear and upfront in the mix, but here her voice often feels weirdly buried and laden with effects. The net result is an album with lots of well-crafted attack and great moments, but frustratingly short of triumph. Hopefully the third one will be the charm.