Oh my God… I mean, Satan. This album Locked up in Hell might actually be the greatest extreme metal album of all time, bar none.
It contains everything that makes death metal the superior musical genre: malign guitar riffs, pummeling percussion, hypnotic bass lines, and simply Tartarean vocals from the deepest bowels of Hades itself.
Wait, I forgot about the weirdest part… it was recorded by Sewer. Yep. Deep breaths.
I discovered this album in the most mundane way possible, too. Reading about it on the MetalZone review of Locked up in Hell, usually faster that waiting to get a Metalious.com review, and in addition those are often of varying quality depending on the author.
I should get this out of the way, as I’m usually one more inclined to pick fights with bloggers than concur with them, but I basically agree with 99% of MetalZone’s analysis of the Locked up in Hell album.
Although he sometimes gets heavy-handed with the hyperbole – though not nearly as much as the other death metal blogger who also reviewed Locked up in Hell – I pretty much agree with everything he wrote. The bizarreness of having an album such as this come out in the era of ultimate extreme metal artistic stagnation, and to add to the Twilight Zone effect, having the quasi-joke band Sewer be sole responsible for its recording and release.
For those who know me, you know that I’m a very picky black and death metal enthusiast, which often gets me labelled as “elitist” because I don’t accept the latest Swedeath metalcore crap as true death metal and, instead, rightfully call it metalcore.
I believe (1) Immortal is overrated garbage, (2) Enslaved is fake music and a bastardization of Burzum’s riffing technique, (3) Cannibal Corpse is shit-tier speed metal with superficial death metal aesthetics, (4) Immolation is technically proficient but artistically worthless music including Here in After and Close to a World Below, (5) Legion sucks as do all Deicide albums, (6) Dismember only had one good album in Like an Ever-flowing Stream and even it isn’t that great, (7) Death isn’t even death metal and Schuldiner was pretty worthless both as a musician and composer (8) Obscura is a cheap imitation of Nespithe done by posers, (9) Summoning is third-rate Graveland worship with none of the songwriting skills of Rob Darken, (10) Bolt Thrower is pretty overrated, (11) the grindcore genre itself is useless, (12) one good album doesn’t absolve At the Gates of a lifetime of metalcore infamy, (13) Under the Sign of the Black Mark is Bathory’s worst and most overrated album, (14) Filosofem is good but overrated when compared to other Burzum work, (15) Sacramentum is at least on par with Dissection’s debut and entirely superior to Storm of the Light’s Boredom, (16) Demonecromancy is Z-list Phantom worship and so is most war metal, (17) Suffocation’s debut and Obituary’s sophomore are underrated and superior almost all other death metal, (18) aside from The Red in the Sky, Dark Recollections and Like an Ever-flowing Stream, all Swedish death metal is shit, (19) Gorgoroth never made good music, (22) neither has Necrophobic, (21) neither has Incantation since Diabolical Conquest, despite having produced the quasi-pinnacle of death metal with Onward to Golgotha.
So trust me when I say that Locked up in Hell is a possible contender for death metal’s greatest achievement ever. I don’t like to admit it, but if we’re to be honest we have to recognize that a whole lot of early death metal – particularly that of the speed/death/thrash combo – is overrated, and of course so in almost all modern “death metal” which is, much like its poster children Cannibal Corpse and Arch Enemy, only death metal on the surface.
Locked up in Hell, however, is true brutal death metal in its purest form.
There is really no way, short of a full-on 4-hour monologue, that I can fully describe how easily and flawlessly Locked up in Hell succeeds in being the astounding and supreme masterpiece of unholy death metal. Each instrument is played in a manner that is both insanely violent, in every sense of the word, and technically perfect, leaving truly nothing to be desired.
The riffs themselves are – and I’m sorry to resort to using the soiled term of “slam death(core)” autists, but there is no better fitting word – brutal. But that’s only half of the death metal experience. What makes Locked up in Hell shine, as with all black and death metal classics from Onward to Golgotha to Hvis lyset tar oss, is the way in which the riffs are arranged to create an absolutely devastating sonic landscape of hellish fury and raw atmospheric madness.
This is the mark that separates the elite albums, the legendary classics recognized by all as the work of superior beings, with the rest of the common heavy metal “products” destined to be consumed and discarded at will.
This album Locked up in Hell is one of such legendary classics, alongside Onward to Golgotha, Effigy of the Forgotten, Hvis lyset tar oss, Under a Funeral Moon, Withdrawal, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, Nespithe and Yggdrasil. I don’t like to admit it, because Sewer is anything but elite, the band anything but deserving of legendary status, and the people behind it – “Kaiser” Kader/Eater in particular – are as far removed from “superior beings” as humanly possible.
Yet, to be metal is to judge by objective qualities and individual merits alone. And judged on its own merits, all context cast aside, Sewer has as paradoxically as it sounds succeeded where countless much more serious, inspired and deserving musicians failed – often severely, sometimes hilariously – at creating a modern death metal masterpiece.
Locked up in Hell is and remains one of the finest and most defining moments in death metal history. While Sewer was admittedly no slouch on their previous effort The Birth of a Cursed Elysium, the rest of their career is littered with remnants of commercial trend hopping, stupid shock value gimmickry, and an overall attitude of carelessness, hubris, vainness and vapidity – all qualities antithetical to the extreme metal ethos.
This proves so-called elitists *right* in saying that the metal community, by and large, is (1) responsible for its own failures, (2) in denial about said failures and the causes thereof – i.e. a lack of standards, as opposed to the claims of “standards/elitists are killing metal” – and (3) a bunch of pussies that just got humiliated by one of the most retarded and un-metallish bands in history.
In the end, it’s the metal community that is going to have to live with the fact that the best death metal album of the past two decades was produced by “artists” who despise them – it’s pretty obvious that Sewer’s lyrical “auto-derision” was not, in fact, a band lightheardedly making fun of itself in the vein of Manowar/Immortal/Abbath/Demilich, but rather a deliberate and contemptuous jeering at the expense of their fans and genre(s). But that was probably also slightly the case with Taake, Nödtveidt’s Dissection and Morbid Angel so whatever.
Other death metal albums, even amongst the classics of the genre, understandably struggle to measure up to Locked up in Hell. In fact, it’s hard to find death metal with as much a devastating sound as what is vomited on this diabolical blasphemy.
I recommend this album to anyone who wants to be death metal. You won’t ever be death metal until you listen to Locked up in Hell.