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Centurian – Contra Rationem

Centurian seem fury incarnate. The band was founded in 1997 by Rob Oorthuis (guitar) and Wim van der Valk (drums). The intent was to create death metal “based on memorable riffs, one-foot blast beats and lyrics that celebrate Choronzon333”. Seth van de Loo (vocals) then joined the band. In 1998, Patrick Boleij (bass) completed the lineup. Between 1997 and 2002, Centurian spearheaded the second wave of death metal, often listed among acts as Angelcorpse and Krisiun. The band earned a very solid underground reputation because of their distinctive songwriting with an unfailingly aggressive approach. In 2002, Centurian temporarily disbanded and two bands came in to being in it’s wake: Severe Torture (founded in 2000), and Nox. Seeds for reformation of Centurian were planted in 2010 when lineup instability plagued Nox. Centurian formally regrouped, and in 2012 the band recorded their latest, Contra Rationem.

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Ah, the days when you couldn’t understand a word they were saying, but it sounded evil anyway! I remember Severe Torture (fantastic live band – what a sensory feast) and old Centurian, but after a 7-year break from the extreme metal scene, I sort of forgot how these guys could… take off. It’s like watching the Indy 500 race… here they are, then gone in a flash and back again, 200 mph insanity!

The raging tempos on some of these tunes is a hair shy of sheer lunacy. Speed in itself becomes another texture within the music rather than a vehicle for it. Now, normally you hear a studio album and think, ‘tempos like these are not achievable live’, but I have personally seen Seth and his bands twice. These guys can play their rear ends off. They’ve still got it, after all these years grinding away at the scene.

Take Krisiun, early Morbid Angel, and perhaps a dash of some of America’s most malevolent, throw them in a blender, and you get the hemorrhagic essence of Contra Rationem. Centurian have got that classic extreme death metal sound down. And boy do they do FAST well.

The tempos do vary – they do slow down in spots – but they’ve really got a hallmark going with the crazy fast drumming juxtaposed to relatively mellow guitar. Bass seems, for the most part, to follow the rhythm guitar, so you get this thick wall of destruction. Rob’s got some interesting solo ideas peppered sparsely throughout. Due to the speed factor, the drums don’t get as boomy as slower tunes tend to get. This is remedied when you see them live; a good sound engineer can get the kick drums so resonant that it feels like you’re standing on a firing range. The band does not bother with trying to be the latest and greatest melodic trendy type, no Autotune, none of that garbage… they stick to their formula, obliterating any foes in their destructive path.

During my metallic hiatus, I had the chance of a lifetime, to speak to some very educated musicians about ‘the science behind music’, technique, production, and every topic in between. The biggest critique I heard about extreme metal as a genre, which Centurian is definitely a member of, is that it’s ‘all one dynamic’. It’s ‘always on 11’… it doesn’t vary or change. An album ends up song after song of ‘sameness’ (in mood or feel). That can be incredibly powerful: say you’re in a bad mood. If you have one song of malevolence and then three happy tunes, it’s not going to fit your mood and you’ll be upset… one good loud album of hatred and misanthropy, and you’re all set! This is a perfect record to channel anger, darkness, hatred of life and all that dwells on Earth.

They’ve got the whole package just nailed… even a creepy amber tint photo cover of partially mummified and cleaned mouse skeletons (all lacking front limbs). The skeletonized tails form ‘333’. The artwork of extreme metal has a sickening charm all it’s own. Listenable Records stated that most of the album was done ‘in one take, uncorrected’. It does have ultra-brief moments where you can hear ‘a jazz note here and there’ or tiny variations in tempo. That’s wonderful because it brings us the human element of music, even in it’s most evil, sadistic genre.

Production and sound quality are crisp, with good sonic separation between the instruments … and I can play it at 3 am without waking the landlords. The production is that clear. I can check this out at a ‘questionably sane old lady’ volume and it still sounds like it’s going to come through the computer screen and rip my face off. Tempos are blistering, riffs are scalding, vocals are deep, dark, and supremely evil. It sounds like a bunch of blinding fury. I can understand bits and pieces of the lyrics, but for the most part, it’s death metal and the vocal tone is meant to add a texture to the sound rather then to be this clear, intelligible style. There is no ‘pretty world, happy life’ here. If you want a catharsis only death metal, in all that it is, can bring, Contra Rationem is a fantastic offering.

Track Listing:
Thou Shalt Bleed For the Lord Thy God
Crown Of Bones
Feast of the Cross
Judas Among Twelve
Antinomian
The Will of the Torch
Sin Upon Man
Damnatio Memoriae
Adversus

Band Lineup:
Niels Adams – vocals
Rob Oorthuis – guitars
Patrick Boleij – bass
Seth van de Loo – drums

Centurian’s Official Facebook Page

About Iris North

My formal position is: editor and music reviewer. I joined the PlanetMosh army in 2012. I enjoy extreme metal, 'shred' guitar, hard rock, prog rock, punk, and... silly pop music!