PURTENANCE: Member Of Immortal Damnation
Release year: 1992/2021
Label: Drowned Productions/Xtreem Music
The names of the old Finnish death metal scene are numerous and illustrious, many of those early bands having carved their mark into the tombstones and fleshly remains of death metal for ages to come: Convulse, Demilich, Demigod, Adramelech, Sentenced, Abhorrence, Amorphis… and, last in this list but not least, Purtenance. For some reason, it seems like Purtenance are often given less accord and acclaim than some of their peers, even though there really is little reason – especially considering the latter day activities of many of these bands.
Like many early Finnish bands, Purtenance released during their original run only a very limited amount of material. Most of this is compiled on the CD version of this 2021 re-release of their debut album Member Of Immortal Damnation: the full-length, an EP (Crown Waits The Immortal) and a demo under their previous, longer monicker of Purtenance Avulsion.
Notably, the 2021 re-release on vinyl is the first official non-picture disc version since 1992. Massive kudos to Xtreem Music for finally giving this classic album a proper vinyl re-release!
Purtenance hails from Nokia, Finland – or hailed, I don’t know if any of the members still live there. They share not only the hometown with the legendary Convulse: there are similarities in the band’s sound as well. That something, which is the Finnish sound: murky, dark, haunted, laced with brooding and melancholic melodies; less thrash than the classic Swedish bands of the same era, and certainly oceans away from whatever bands in the US were doing at the time. What characterizes the Finnish sound is, to me, an atmosphere of utter darkness and haunted evil, almost as a slightly pungent, nascent forebear to the atmospheres black metal bands would explore shortly afterwards.
Now, in hindsight, and with easy access to a whole lot of high-class re-releases of Finnish death metal classics from recent years, one can admit that Purtenance and their debut album isn’t the best Finland had to offer at the time. For me, World Without God by Convulse is the pinnacle of the first era of Finnish death metal, and Member Of Immortal Damnation certainly isn’t – and wasn’t – set to knock it off its throne. In comparison, on the other hand, to Nespithe by Demilich, Purtenance’s debut is far less trailblazing and unique.
In a way, Purtenance’s debut feels a bit like what could have been meat-and-potatoes death metal, had the early Finnish death metal scene ever burst into a larger phenomenon: it’s good, undeniably so, and definitely deserves to be re-released and heard by new generations of death-heads, but it’s a bit less illustrious than some of the other albums released in Finland during these years. The songs don’t stand out as much, the sound and approach of the band doesn’t feel quite as unique. It just doesn’t impress me quite in the same way as the albums that stand one rung higher.
That said, Member Of Immortal Damnation is a classic, through and through. There’s no denying that this album has a deserved place in the halls of fame and impressive canon of Finland’s death metal history. Fans of the dark, brooding but still brutal and heavy Finnish sound will not be disappointed in this, if anyone for some reason has thus far managed to miss out on this album.
The 2021 vinyl version contains only the album itself, which is fine and dandy. However, as mentioned, the CD comes with some additional treats. I want to give special mention to the 7″ EP Crown Awaits The Immortal: I feel its sound, which is murkier and more decayed than the album’s, is superior. I just worship that almost-falling-apart sound of the guitars, and the sludge of bass. I feel the stuff on the EP is the best Purtenance put out during their initial run.
Now, as many of their compatriots, Purtenance reformed in later years and have remained reasonably active since 2012. They’ve released an additional three albums and two EP’s, staying true to their style and keeping the flame of archaic Finnish death metal alive with releases of respectable quality. In comparison to virtually every other band of their time who didn’t completely die out, Purtenance are about the only ones who haven’t veered off to left-field directions. Despite being marred by some minor issues, last year’s Buried Incarnation was a fine slab of classic Finnish darkness. The same can’t be said for the latter day output of, say, Convulse or Demigod!
Despite not being in the absolute forefront of old Finnish death metal, Member Of Immortal Damnation is essential listening for anyone into this particular sound. And not just because of its classic status and because it is part of the first wave of the Finnish death metal scene, but also because it is a good album.