Much in the way that the first wave of Swedish death metal bands began to diverge stylistically by the time of their second and third LPs, so too has the current crop of Swedish bands, polarizing critics and fans alike. Fortunately, some bands simply proceed logically forward, advancing their sound without abandoning what made them appealing to begin with. Among these few, Vanhelgd stands tall with their crushing third LP Relics of Sulphur Salvation.
Having released two well received LPs via the Nuclear War Now label, including 2011's outstanding and underrated Church of Death, the band makes a big leap in production quality on Relics of Sulphur Salvation. The eight complex and memorable songs strike with an urgent ferocity not seen in other so-called ''boundary-pushing'' or ''progressive'' releases in recent memory. This is death metal from the guts, played with relentless and nuanced savagery. Vanhelgd's natural skill for crafting monumental death metal songs suggests early At The Gates, Entombed, and even elements of My Dying Bride. Tracks like opener ''Dödens Maskätna Anlete'' and ''Where All Flesh Is Soil'' hit like a hammer to the skull; immediate, without mercy and not soon forgotten. The terrifyingly raw, mutilated vocals of Mattias Frisk are as vital an ''instrument'' as the similarly voiced Tompa Lindberg and Martin Van Drunen.
A thousand records will be released this year for the average death metal fan. Only a handful will warrant more than a spin or two, and even less will make it off the shelf and onto the turntable after a year or more. Relics of Sulphur Salvation is one of those records. A striking new precedent for Real Death Metal in 2014.