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Lay Down Rotten - "Gospel Of The Wretched" (CD)

Lay Down Rotten - "Gospel Of The Wretched" CD cover image

"Gospel Of The Wretched" track listing:

1. Hours Of Infinity
2. Thy Won't Be Done
3. Where Spirits Lie Dead
4. Altering The Whore
5. Conditioning The Weak
6. He Who Sows Hate
7. Beyond Damnation
8. When All Becomes Nothing
9. Gospel of the Wretched

Reviewed by on June 18, 2009

"They use other metal bands and styles to form and shape their music into something that is unique and has consistent variety and quality."

German death metal has been a niche of metal that has risen in popularity and renown over the last year or so, as more and more German death metal bands borrow from the Swedish style of melodic death metal. German death metal has been taking the melody another step further, featuring more standard rock and metal elements and less of the brutal soundscapes of standard death metal. Lay Down Rotten has ridden the wave of the rising popularity of German death metal, and delivers an excellent example in “Gospel Of the Wretched.”

The first song, which is the title track, immediately signals the priority for Lay Down Rotten. Instead of tremolo picking or blast beats, the listener is greeted with one huge chord underneath an anthemic guitar line. Even when the rhythm guitar moves to the tremolo, the guitar line sticks all the way until the first verse begins. The guitar line keeps returning, running around the main riff and vocals and ultimately ending with an extended solo that is more power metal than anything else. The second half of the song is more of the standard death metal fare, with blast beats and all. But it’s too late, as Lay Down Rotten has made their position clear.

The album is based in death metal, but Lay Down Rotten mixes in elements from almost every other style of metal. The main riff in “Thy Won’t Be Done” sounds like it was written by Eric Peterson. The guitar leads on “He Who Sows Hate” are straight neo-classical metal, and could easily be from any Yngwie Malmsteen album. The bridge riff in “Beyond Damnation” is Iced Earth incarnate. This is not to say that Lay Down Rotten rips off other metal bands to make their music. They use other metal bands and styles to form and shape their music into something that is unique and has consistent variety and quality.

The performances on the disc are also to be lauded. Vocalist and founder Daniel Jakobi shows good range on his deep-throated growls, changing quickly and easily between textures and octaves. Jakobi and Nils Forster work the guitars. The twin attack melds well with both the underlying riffs and main guitar melodies, which contribute to the musical themes that are explored and drive the music forward. Bassist Uwe Kilian is rarely heard due to the mix, but when he does crop up he is powerful and musical.

The award on this disc, however, goes to drummer Timo Claas. His work is varied, precise, and powerful. Energetic throughout, his drumming has many stylistic sides that complement the various modes Lay Down Rotten runs through on the album. All of his drumming styles mix together to form the strength of the base of the pillar. It is a shame that the production is a pretty standard death metal execution, as the drums and bass (what little of it can be heard) are consistently outstanding and always overrun by guitars and vocals.

The album also features guest vocals from Martin Van Drunen (Hails of Bullets, Asphyx, Pestilence), Dan Swano (Edge Of Sanity, Katatonia), and Marc Grewe (Morgoth). While these guest appearances are of course welcome and well done, they aren’t necessary. Lay Down Rotten has crafted an ambitious and far reaching album that can easily stand on its own. Sooner, rather than later, Jakobi will be doing guest appearances on their new albums as the standard of melodic death metal.

Highs: The melodies are fantastic and the death metal is heavy; the title track is a particular standout.

Lows: The production doesn’t do justice to the fantastic drum work.

Bottom line: Lay Down Rotten has created the epitome of German melodic death metal.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)