Convulse’s town-mates Purtenance weren’t among my first acquaintances from the olden days, and even after discovering their first and only full-length from 1992, Member of Immortal Damnation, it didn’t reach a very important position in my books. However, as Purtenance reissues started pouring in over 15 years after the initial release, I gave the album further listens that enhanced my appreciation. It still might not make it to my top-10 of old Finnish death metal full-lengths, but it’s definitely an essential album to lend your ear to, if you’re one of us craving for that dark, doomy atmosphere of obscurity combined with frenzied waves of decay.
I remember looking up whether the Purtenance guys had been up to anything else metal recently, and finding out that drummer Harri was playing with a new death metal band under the unexciting moniker Purpose, which might have been one of the reasons why I never got around to checking them out. However, quite soon after acquiring the extremely inclusive 2-LP box MCMXCI–MCMXCII – not only containing Member of Immortal Damnation, but also the preceding EP and the demo the band did as Purtenance Avulsion – I heard the news about Purtenance’s return, with Harri and guitarist Juha being the only guys left from the old crew.
A deeper look revealed that the third member of the new line-up, bassist-vocalist Ville, had already been playing with Harri in Purpose. When interviewed, they also openly admitted that after Juha had joined Purpose, Dave Rotten of Xtreem Music had offered the band a deal, with the condition that they use the name Purtenance. I know that Dave and Purtenance go back a long way, him having already put out their stuff in the early 90’s on his first label Drowned Productions, but is it just me, or does this sound like the guy is trying to milk a few extra bucks out of the old death metal obsession spreading around these days? Or maybe I’m just being a cynical bastard, and Dave was just a bit too eager to bring back one of his old favorites…
As a result of this union, summer 2012 saw the release of a new MCD under the Purtenance moniker. Despite sporting approvably old-school Chris Moyen artwork just like the debut album, the rotten audial apple seems to have fallen a bit further from the tree on Sacrifice the King. Ville’s growls feel a bit teethless at times, especially when compared to the more diverse vocalization of the debut, and the songwriting doesn’t reach the level of their best moments from two decades ago either. Some of their past glory is present in the lead guitarwork, but otherwise it feels like there’s too much simply brutal mauling going on, at the expense of diving into the murkier depths of the musical spectrum. Most of the songs manage to make some pretty memorable turns, resulting in an enjoyable little release, yet nothing that I imagine getting an itch to spin five years from now.
Keeping all this in mind, my expectations for Purtenance’s first public appearance since the days of Mauno Koivisto weren’t particularly high, although I was looking forward to their show at Hyvinkää’s Steelfest in May 2013 with careful curiosity. With the band playing on the bright outside stage relatively early, the setting wasn’t very supportive, and the quartet’s stage presence seemed very modest – passionless, even – as they weren’t making any effort to perform more extrovertedly than at your average Sunday rehearsal. However, hearing some of the old sonic slime live was well worth the watch, with “newbie” Ville reminiscing the immense impact that “Black Vision” had on him when he first heard the song as a kid, while the straight-forward “Demon Gods” ravaged most commandingly out of the fresher batch. I walked away neither disappointed nor impressed, thinking that maybe my next encounter with Purtenance will be a more intense one, once the band have gotten their rusty scythes properly sharpened, and are ready to make some heads roll.
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