"The Facts and Terrifying Testament of Mason Hamilton: Tsathoggua Tales" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Swedish/US death metal act The Grotesquery. The album was released through Cyclone Empire Records in April 2012. The Grotesquery is an old school death metal project founded by guitarist Roger "Rogga" Johansson (Demiurg, Paganizer, Ribspreader...among others) and former Massacre vocalist Kam Lee. They are joined here by bassist Johan Berglund (Demiurg, The Skeletal, This Haven, Ribspreader) and drummer Brynjar Helgetun (Those Who Bring the Torture, The Skeletal, Putrevore, Ribspreader). The band released the "Tales of the Coffin Born" debut full-length studio album in January 2010.
If you are familiar with the careers of the two founders, it´ll be no surprise that the music on "The Facts and Terrifying Testament of Mason Hamilton: Tsathoggua Tales" is old school death metal which more or less sounds like it was recorded and released in the late eighties/early nineties. It´s brutal alright, but always with an energetic headbanger friendly mid-paced groove to accompany the brutality (the tempo varies though and there are faster paced parts on the album too). It´s a treat to hear a growling vocalist like Kam Lee, who sounds so convincing and articulated (intelligible). He both growls and sings in a higher pitched aggressive sneer. The latter type vocals provide the vocal department with good variation. The riffs are downtuned and raw and the rythm section are tight and well playing. The H.P. Lovecraft influenced conceptual lyrics add another dark dimension to an already eerie and dungeon dark death metal release (check out songtitles like "Tsatthogua - The Black God of N'Kai" and "Amongst Black Slime and Mushroom People"). While the music is certainly both brutal and raw, there are lead guitar sections which provides the music with a gloomy atmosphere. Sometimes there´s even an epic edge to music. Best heard in the closing track "Dreams of Terrors in Darkness & Horrors out of Shadows". I hear references to acts like early Edge of Sanity and Bloodbath on the album, but The Grotesquery have crafted a memorable and distinct sounding death metal release on their own.
The sound production is suitingly raw too, but without sacrificing clarity. If I have to mention a minor complaint it would be that the drums sound a bit too "artificial" (the triggered bass drums are especially out of place) when a more organic drum sound would probably have suited the music better. This was also a minor issue on the debut, but then again it might just be an aquired taste. It´s definitely a conscious choice by the band, so I assume that this is how they like the drums to sound.
"The Facts and Terrifying Testament of Mason Hamilton: Tsathoggua Tales" is a school example in how you create a successful old school death metal release. There are literally thousands of albums out there in this style, and it´s hard to write old school death metal that sticks out from the crowd, without sacrificing integrity, which is something fans of the genre are very particular about. On one hand the fans are quickly bored with "just another" retro sounding old school death metal release, but if you incorporate too many "outside" ideas, you are often labelled a sell-out. Therefore memorable songwriting, tight musicianship and a professional raw sound production are vital to the success of an old school death metal release these days. Otherwise the fans will just dig out their albums from the late eighties/early nineties and leave your album to collect dust. "The Facts and Terrifying Testament of Mason Hamilton: Tsathoggua Tales" meets all of the above mentioned criterias and a 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is fully deserved. I find the album highly recommendable to fans of the genre.