Celestial Sanctuary: “This new breed of UK death metal boasts something grimier: a disgusting edge”

Death metal is meant to be disgusting. Brit sickos Celestial Sanctuary understand this better than most. And though business is on the up-and-up, including a spot at Download, don’t expect them to tone down the reek of putrefaction anytime soon…

Celestial Sanctuary: “This new breed of UK death metal boasts something grimier: a disgusting edge”
Sam Law
Harry Steel

It’s a long way from the Florida swamplands to the East Anglian Fens. Out by the cold, stagnant, shallow water of that English wilderness, though, brews the same appetite for truly gut-wrenching death metal sounds that emanated from the southeastern United States’ snakes and alligators three decades ago. Celestial Sanctuary aren’t here for pleasant countryside strolls. They prefer carnage. “I don’t think we incorporate enough bleakness into our sound,” grins frontman Tom Cronin. “Maybe we should take more inspiration from the Fenlands – they are horribly depressing.”

Indeed, on 2021 debut Soul Diminished and even more so on 2023 follow-up Insatiable Thirst For Torment, the Cambridgeshire quartet could be accused of many things, but sounding down would not be one of them. In songs like Glutted With Chunder and Yearn For The Rot, there is a gleeful appreciation of the savagery of legends like Morbid Angel and Cannibal Corpse, but also of the sonic adventure of Metallica or Mastodon – and no small share of tongue in cheek. They’re not “just ‘OSDM’ revivalists”, Tom insists, but they’re absolutely part of a rising death metal tide.

“The current wave of death metal is a knee-jerk reaction,” he enthuses, “to heavy music losing its personality and becoming sterile. People had gotten to the point where all they were trying to do was out-tech or out-slam each other. As fans, we just wanted to get back to the sounds that made us fall in love in the first place.

“In the U.S., they’re ahead of the curve with bands like Blood Incantation. We were influenced by them, because how could you listen to that and not think, ‘Holy shit!’ But just as Napalm Death and Carcass did first time round, this new breed of UK acts – Coffin Mulch, Vacuous, Mutagenic Host – boast something grimier: a disgusting edge.”

Veterans of the scene, with DIY energy learned from hardcore, Celestial Sanctuary aren’t letting all those sticky entrails hold them back. Their first show sold out Camden’s legendary Black Heart six months after the debut LP had dropped. They hit the road with New York upstarts Undeath not long after. And opening last year’s Damnation, they stepped up impressively from inhabiting 50-cap bunkers to drawing in more than 1,000 sets of eyes shortly after doors.

“A few weeks later, we got the call to play Download 2024,” Tom shrugs. “We’re more and more confident taking on big shows like that, scaling this up without losing too much: playing those fast riffs a little faster and the slow riffs a little slower. I’m excited to get stuck in. Hopefully we smash it! Beyond that? It’s just about having fun.

“We’re not trying to push this further than death metal can take you,” he muses. “Though Cannibal Corpse have gone further than people ever expected they could!”

Indeed, death knows no bounds. And Celestial Sanctuary are killing it right now.

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