ALBUM REVIEW: Cordyceps – Betrayal

Release Date: April 10th 2020
Label: Unique Leader Records
Website: None available
Twitter: None available


Cordyceps take their name from a bizarre strain of fungi, one that grows inside the bodies of insects, attacking and assimilating until it zombifies its host.

This proves to be an apt metaphor for the band’s music, which burrows its tendrils deep inside your brain, through an almost singularly ugly and violent process.

Cordyceps describe their sound as ‘blackened brutal death metal’, surely one of the least palatable of music genres. However, those with an open mind and strong stomach will discover in ‘Betrayal’ a work of vile beauty, hosting ten meticulously composed bludgeons that each contain moments of wild technical virtuosity.

The high water mark of brutal death metal is Gorguts‘ 1998 masterpiece, ‘Obscura’. At its best, ‘Betrayal’ channels some of that album’s idiosyncrasies, such as the crazed pull-offs at the start of ‘Cesspool Of The Vicious’ or the guitar squeals midway into ‘Maelstrom Of Hypocrisy’, a trick so effective that it’s repeated on closer, ‘Black Mass’.

What Gorguts understood so well was that for them to take metal to its furthest extremes, they needed to expand the language of their instrumentation. They used knife-edge polyrhythms, ever-present dissonance, and piercing angularity to drag listeners as far away from familiarity as possible. Cordyceps follow this style to a point, just with less artistic elegance and a more contemporary, post-deathcore focus on blasts and breakdowns.

None of which means that ‘Betrayal’ doesn’t work on its own terms. ‘The Abyss’ contains slam sections which hit with all the force of a tooth being kicked out, as does the rumbling, bass-driven middle section of ‘Condemning The Path’. The riffs are never anything but muscular and visceral, as are the terrifyingly precise, rapid-fire drums.

There are also, lurking around the edges of ‘Betrayal’, moments of effective ambient menace. The opening track, ‘Cursed Are They’, sets up the eerie, almost gothic atmosphere that so many death metal albums use as a spine, whilst ‘The Abyss’ opens and closes with minimal, but precise, haunting groans and wails. These moments are sparingly used, but they add nuance and flavour to Cordyceps‘ well-worn sound.

‘Betrayal’ won’t expand Cordyceps‘ appeal beyond their immediate fanbase. The music is relentless in its determination to remain unpalatable and ugly, and for that it deserves the highest praise. Glimmers of unique brilliance gradually reveal themselves and hint towards a bright future for Cordyceps, provided the band can lean even further on the angularity and strangeness.

Open your mind, and let ‘Betrayal’ dig its way in.