Welcoming my firstborn to the world this week, so I'll be away from review writing until the next! Thanks as always for reading, much love, and more to come soon.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Granted, this is a legacy far older, with a lot of the riffing motifs lifted off classics like Kill 'Em All or Show No Mercy, cultivating the same general aesthetic once pioneered by Bathory, Destruction, Motörhead and Venom, but it's not something I ever seem to grow tired of as long as it's performed well. And, thanks to the raw but clear production choices on this record, I've had a lot of fun listening through it. Rhythm guitar progressions use a lot of the hammered, trilling hi-octane techniques you've heard in this particular field many a time, but combined with meatier mid-paced thrashing chord chugs, splayed out trad metal 4-chord backing patterns for an airier feel, and lightning melodic leads which seem slightly more controlled than the haphazard spasms you'd predict from the usual Slayer-philes. They also throw in some wah wah effects and others to build a real balance and atmosphere to the record that more than compensates for its generally raw mix and undercooked ideas. The vocalist has a pretty impish rasp going on, though I admit I prefer when he's singing in Spanish, it just drips with a more natural sense of character and malevolence...not that he's a slouch in English, where he sounds like a less pronounced Quorthon from the earlier records, but it doesn't give the material that same sense of place...like I don't feel as if I'm being run down through a rainforest by Satanic cocaine dealers with machetes...to whom I owe a great deal of money.
I actually quite liked the sense of 'distance' in the production, almost like you're listening to it in an empty futbol stadium, sitting too low to receive the brunt of the drums or rhythm guitars, but when those leads burst out in tunes like "Misanthropist God" they totally take over the space. The bass is a little low and in truth this is not a heavily 'low end' sort of recording, but it's enough that I can make out the lines, which are basically just following along with the rhythm riffs. The drums aren't insanely technical, which wouldn't fit this sort of nostalgic songwriting, but they're peppy and vivacious and blaze along at a strong clip and volume. Really, though, the production is going to turn off some and titillate others. You want brickwalled, dense Pro Tools melodic death/thrash that sounds like it was written in the 21st century? El Armagedón Continúa is not likely to fulfill that desire. Nothing here is 'new', or for that matter very creative. But if you want an album to seem like it was recorded in the back of some van pimped out with spikes and machine guns, Mad Max-style, while the driver and passengers hurl empties out the windows in a rabid pursuit of their own Sentence of Death or Welcome to Hell, along the highway TO Hell, then Guerra Total has your number on speed-dial and they're crank-calling you for about 40 minutes of jeering, jubilant, incendiary entertainment. Poseurs and pedestrians beware! Hail speed! And hail Satan!
Verdict: Win [7.5/10] (evil mutants looking for flesh)
Friday, November 29, 2013
The Stützer brothers were indisputably one of the best, if not THE best guitar duo in that later 80s thrash epoch, and here they still show they haven't lost all their chops with age. Frenetic and churning rhythms are bounced off one another at various levels of acceleration, and they still seem to be incorporating a lot of those mildly Eastern melodies you may have recalled from the titles I name-dropped above. So Legions cultivates that similar sense of exotic, far-off, glorious and airy power/thrash, only it's missing those riff progressions that remain with you forever, something even the first reunion record When Death Comes was able to accomplish. It's not the 80s anymore, so you're not getting that wonderfully raw guitar tone you'd have found on Fear of Tomorrow, instead the Danes have settled into a more modern approximation of their 90s outing B.A.C.K., with the caveat that Legion is on the whole more atmospheric, with a lot more depth of production. This is emphasized by the effects on the vocals, and the clearer distinction between the leads and rhythm sounds, but unfortunately where the band was strongest was in how those elements came together so brilliantly and forcefully on By Inheritance, a record with more joyous progressions than I can rightly count. Legions is sleek and modern enough for those seeking 'upgrades' to their heroes, much like you'd expect from Paradox, Destruction or Testament, but the songs themselves have less impact.
As for Dahl, he's not without some verbal tricks up his sleeve...err, down his throat, but he lacks both the raucous and rough presence of the great Fleming Ronsdorf or even the screaming excess of his direct predecessor Søren Adamsen, who has moved over to front the Greek band Crystal Tears. Range and melody are not in deficit, but he's got this wavering, silky and piercing style to him that seems like it would be a more adequate fit for a power/progressive metal band, part of which Artillery encapsulates, but not enough that he's a match for the momentous riffing passages once the past increases velocity. Worst of all, though, and I'm not sure how much he can be blamed for this: the chorus parts are really just not that memorable. He also has a slightly unusual enunciation which occasionally rubbed me the wrong way, but even in tunes like "Global Flatline" where he's given a lot of space to flex a more thorough and operatic series of harmonies which remind me a little of a more prog metal alternative to Swedes like Messiah Marcolin or Memory Garden, the melodies that are written over the clean guitars don't seem to achieve much other than to exhibit his range. Not to mention there are probably more delay/reverb effects on him than on the vocals of any prior full-length, especially when he does a more cutting mid-range, aggressive line.
I'd also lay some of the blame here squarely on the leads, which while technically as adept as ever just don't seem to have any memorable qualities about themselves beyond the fact that 'hey there's needs to be a solo here, bro!'. In the past I've enjoyed some of the Stützer solos as much as their genius riffing, but on this album they seem obligatory and directionless, as in "Dies Irae" where I really thought they'd go off and prove a highlight of the piece, yet the structural choices are all pretty timid. The bass lines have some fire lit under them but in many cases they seem to dissipate beneath the punch and proximity of the rhythm guitars, and the other newbie, drummer Josua Madsen does his damned best to keep himself busy; he's just not playing over the strongest material on his Artillery debut. A shame, because I get the sense this group is on a steady decline in the 21st century, whereas their 80s run was the opposite. Legions is still a dynamic, bright and demanding slab of power/thrash, and by no means a failure, but I can't think of a single tune here that can even rival the majority of When Death Comes, never mind the classics.
Worst of all, this just doesn't feel creative or inspired anymore, whereas I could remember a time when these guys exerted nothing but those qualities, from the sticky choruses and ironclad chops of their old albums to the sheer magnificence of By Inheritance, an outing that took the genre to lofty melodic heights it hadn't really achieved before. Even the cover artwork and color palette on this are bland. Song-wise, variation and propulsion are never in short supply here, and fans of recent works by Paradox, Iced Earth and Mekong Delta who aren't already Artillery fans might wanna give it a spin...but I was ultimately underwhelmed, and that is not a word I'd ever expect to use in conjunction with this band.
Verdict: Indifference [6.5/10] (get armed and get ready)
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
But don't most musicians say that about each new release? In the Minds of Evil is not exactly their best material, but neither does it trail very far behind. Certainly it eclipses many of their mediocre records with ease, but I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the fan base are sort of bored at this point, since Deicide does not seem capable of much nuance or progression from release to release, the greatest coming when they put out The Stench of Redemption with its blazing leads and heightened melodic sensibility (though even there, it was largely business as usual). That formula still exists here, particularly with the lead guitars, which I feel comfortable in claiming as the best they've implemented, or at least the most atmospheric, but it's the rest of the riffing that falls a little short, if mainly because I've heard it all before so many times, and there are just too many 'safe bets' in intervals and note choices that fail to generate the level excitement I wanted as the tunes surged into those immaculate solos. I had read somewhere that the lyrics to this were particularly weak, but having read through them I have to disagree...true, they're recapitulating a lot of the same points they've been hammering in since the eponymous debut in 1990, but composition-wise there's plenty enough effort. I mean, if you're looking for Milton-level authorship, you're in the wrong place to begin with.
One area where In the Minds of Evil never really drags behind is in its production, which is modern, beefy and extremely clean. Some diehards of the early 90s might be turned off that it's not that same sort of muffled and flawed Morrisound style they remember with such fondness, but I'm not complaining. Glen's vocals, which continue to focus on the decidedly guttural style rather than the dual imp/grunts on the 'classics', seem like they were very carefully produced, while the riffs have plenty of meat on them rivaled here only by Steve Asheim's effortless mastery of the rolling double bass beats and fits of blasting. Jason Suecof definitely reaffirms his love for getting that great kit sound, and keeping everything clear and in place. A few of the muted tremolo picked harmonies have a nice clinical edge to them that persists into the more effects-heavy solo sequences, but I would say there's a bit of sameness to a lot of the songwriting that doesn't create the most distinct or varied experience (something they've honestly never done). The bass even sounds audible, though he's not usually performing the most intriguing lines that could ever steal focus from the rhythm guitars (par for the course, since he's pulling double duty with the vox). Ultimately, as long as you're not averse to these older bands keeping with 'the times' in the studio, this sounds pretty massive in the speakers, and that's going to be the #1 appeal for a lot of younger fans checking this out. Deicide was never exactly a band chasing a grainy or lo-fi production, so this shouldn't surprise anyone.
In the Minds of Evil could rightly be compared to Legion or Once Upon a Cross, with a few hints of Blessed Are the Sick or The Bleeding, apart from that meatier contemporary studio appeal. It's neither an exemplary or innovative offering, but at least a satisfactory one within its own restraints. Benton and crew seem complacent to the fact that they're an old school death metal band, and they simply seek to hone that craft to perfection time and time again. Similar to the Vader formula, but where records like Welcome to the Morbid Reich, also endowed with killer leads, are ecstatic, passionate and unforgettable, In the Minds of Evil ventures across the finish line into acceptable territory and then collapses, unwilling to stay up all night to celebrate its success. Functional, workmanlike death metal with a lot of chops you've heard before, altered marginally and dressed up with screaming, eloquent excursions higher up the fretboard. Honestly I got more out of this than To Hell With God, but I'm still privately hoping that Deicide will one day release the utter masterpiece it should have required to deserve the status it has achieved. These guys were pretty tight in the beginning, and over the past 3-4 albums they've clearly returned to that level of proficiency and teamwork with the newer members...but there's still not an album in their catalog to effect me as profoundly as a Left Hand Path, Realm of Chaos or Consuming Impulse. That said, the effort placed in records like this one show me that COULD happen, so I can't cross hope off the list just yet.
Verdict: Win [7.25/10] (fear imposed by design)
Monday, November 25, 2013
Ihminen, in particular the latter half of the album which begins around "Painajaisten Maa", is a haunting and compelling experience which channels prototype 70s doom into a trippy landscape of eerie vocal harmonies, raw drumming and crude, atmospheric rhythm guitars that are occasionally joined with unexpected higher end sequences of more ambient guitars; as in the lengthy bridge of this particular tune. They can convincingly ape that spidery crawl of the original "Black Sabbath" in addition to splaying out groovier, desert rock style rhythms circa Kyuss or their ilk, and thus there's a pretty fair range of material across the 11 tracks. But what will immediately strike most listeners is just how numbingly beautiful the voice of Noora Federley is: soothing and seething simultaneously, with the backing male vox seamlessly integrated as a support device. The fact that all the lyrics are in the group's native Finnish tongue might prove a turn-off to some, but I found this one of the most remarkable components...it's simply not the same enunciation one is accustomed to from other groups in this niche, and that makes it immediately more interesting and unique.
Noora has a unique ability to sound stern, cold and eloquent in equal measures, and it casts this net of sheer nostalgia which peels away the decades to this strange alternate universe where bell bottoms are being shaken to occult rituals and acid tabs grew on trees. Corduroy fields forever! You could almost think of this as a spiritual update to the old 1969 Coven record Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls, only made over with a Blue Cheer/Black Sabbath treatment in the guitars and vocals that are obviously less soulful than what Jinx Dawson was doing. Dubbing this 'cemetery hippy metal' wouldn't be too far off the mark, but don't let any label dissuade you into not checking this out, because it's rather fantastic. I had hinted that a few of the guitar riffs were pretty basic and bland, and that's certainly the case in tunes like "Itsemurhaaja" which lack the capacity to evince surprise or wonder, but as a sum experience, I'd say there's plenty of exploration in the record's depths. Examples include "Vastaus Rukouskiisi" which is like a sepulchre go-go with added, whacked out guitar textures, or "Hallava Hevonen" with its tribal, antiquated Gothic doom and gloom.
Hell, the aforementioned "Painajasten Maa" is one of the scariest tunes I've heard all year with those strange, sawing intro sounds and the vocal patterns over the fuzzy bass tone and dingy guitars...lulling you into a charnel house coma until it suddenly erupts with color and psychedelia through a driving riff seasoned in a bedlam of spooky flutes. The drums and guitars are all splendidly understated and underpolished to create and relay a live-like studio interaction, and though they never tax themselves experimentally like other Finnish bands (Oranssi Pazuzu, Candy Cane, etc), there's just enough here to ultimately graft a layer of freshness onto what are some otherwise conservative riffing choices. I do wish this was distributed a bit more evenly over the record (especially among the first few cuts), but in the end there was absolutely enough bewitchment as you'll find on any Blood Ceremony or Jex Thoth outing, and even with the language barrier I was finding myself completely enthralled over the course of numerous listens. Few other records this year will provide you with as much impetus to light a doobie with the undead and soak in the withering of the world.
Verdict: Win [8.75/10]
Saturday, November 23, 2013
I've read passionate, lengthy polemics about how Master of Puppets or Heartwork or Blut Aus Nord or Opeth or whomever/whatever 'killed' metal music, but I'm going to let you in on a secret: these are all folly, or we wouldn't still be listening to, writing about, performing or giving a damn in general about any of this shit. But I will say, Roadrunner, once a champion of the form in the later 80s or early 90s, tried really damn hard to achieve this result with their transformation into nu-metal's vanguard institution. For fuck's sake, this was the label that released Abigail, Don't Break the Oath and The Final Separation. How do you go from that to Nickelback, Killswitch Engage and Slipknot? Sure, it's all about numbers...Malevolent Creation and Defiance just weren't sellin, dawgs! So roll out the great wiggafication of the genre, ensnaring those Limp Bizkit pundits who might want something a little harder, a little groovier. Death metal? What's that? Oh yeah, we still own some of those recordings, so let's mix and match tunes from them onto another disc, press a few thousand copies and pay for this year's holiday office party...
The result: 13 years after Suffocation stopped effectively giving a shit about their alma mater, the favor was not returned, and the Best Of was born...err, strategized. Let's do some quick math: Suffocation's first three full-lengths had 26 songs between them, and this collection features a dozen of them. So, basically almost 50% of the material was shuffled around and placed on this disc, a band picture was slapped on the cover and then it was off to the races. To be more specific, it's a 5/4/3 split between Effigy of the Forgotten, Breeding the Spawn and Pierced from Within, which might stun some folks who clearly think the sophomore was the best thing since sliced bread and...why isn't it more strongly represented against its inferior older siblings? I personally enjoy the debut material the most of this but, then, I OWN the things...just like every other Suffocation fan who might have been the target audience for this CD. Can you imagine who might have actually picked this up? Some crackhead poring over the Fear Factory selection at his local Sam Goody slash F.Y.E.? "Shit, I fucking need that, Roadrunner be da joint."
Now, we can debate all day whether a brutal death metal outfit, even one so celebrated as these New Yorkers really warrants a 'Best of' or 'Greatest hits', something that at best should be reserved only for bands with like 30-40 year careers and even then I'd rather have a rarities package...but at the end of the day, death metal is not 'pop' music. Fans are generally interested in the 'album' as a medium, for both its aural and visual aesthetics, its complete package, and the Best of Suffocation does not in its wildest dreams sate that need. By 2008, anyone interested in just checking out the band who had not previously heard them could look them up on Youtube or any audio sample available and then decide whether they were worth pursuing, and that all adds to this being even more fucking useless. If, say, Roadrunner dug around in their gold-plated vaults for rare sessions from the first three records, and then put this out in like 1997 with a 2-3 disc spread, booklet, band approval, photos, live material, then it wouldn't smell like so much snake-oil...
Yeah. Oil. Grease, for the palms...or like the kind that was likely streaked, in large amounts, through the hair of whatever person green lit The Best of Suffocation, another disappointing turn for the worse that makes the Coal Chamber debut seem like the Renaissance by comparison. Even if you have never heard this treasured death meal band in your life, should you come across a copy of this in the wild then I'd urge you to run over it with your car a few times, or if you're the 'green' type, send it in for recycling. Directly after that, go and download the first three Suffocation records so that you can either appreciate them in full, scoff at them or simply whine about the production on Breeding the Spawn. Rinse and repeat with The Best of Malevolent Creation. The Best of Obituary. The Best of Good Band X We Once Deemed to Promote Until We Decided to Lose Our Minds and Get Down Wit Jonathan Davis and the Sickness. 'But, man, dese songs are so good I wanna buy 'em twice on CD.' Yeah, well I want you to die twice, but that ain't happening.
Verdict: Epic Fail [0/10]
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Black Death Horizon is an album that I really, really fucking ENJOY. It's an anomalous, oppressive 42 minutes of proto-death metal influences churned in a vat, stirred to a relish-like composition and then served to you on a rotten bun. It cultivates everything from a raw punk and thrash inspiration to dismal, doomy Autopsisms and Incantationality while marginally altering the strategy of the prior two Obliteration full-lengths, both of which I also...really ENJOYED. It's not quite so brutal and direct as the debut, nor so slimy and squamous as the sophomore Nekropsalms, but more like an atmospheric ritual being evoked on a hellish mountainside where the trees have all been burnt clean by volcanic activity. Caldera metal?!? I want full credit for that. Of course, Black Death Horizons, like almost any death metal record you're like to hear in 2013, is really just a combination of precursor components configured into a slightly new way. Broiling tremolo-picked patterns burst from stretches of moody, death/doom disdain that subsist off dank, uneasy harmonies, and d-beat rhythms weave an undead thuggishness...and happiness is nowhere near at hand, with any and all melodic sensibilities confined to discomfort. Even the leads roil about aimlessly and excitedly like plumes of molten spunk being fired off into the cervix of the ash-caked sky, and ultimately, the Norwegians pulls off what so many bands cannot: a death metal record that actually SOUNDS evil.
It's not excessively catchy beyond just a handful of riffing progressions (like the Arabesque tremolo guitars in "Sepulchral Rites"), but it's brutally functional and persistent due to a number of employed techniques. For one, the vocals here are howled and grating rather than disciples of the typical guttural blueprint. I'm not sure how many takes it took Sindre Solem beyond the first to finish off each tune, but they sound so genuine and tormented rather than clinical, brickwalled and forced. Just the right level of reverb, and a rawness of feeling which guarantees variety in almost any line or chorus. Another is the voluminous, distorted bass lines that provide a bulkiness against the more straightforward clarity of the rhythm guitar chords. This creates a base ugliness to the proceedings that recounts some of the murk of the sophomore, but complements rather than contrasts the airy hostility of Torp's axemanship. Also, props to this guy for his constant feeling about the fretboard, a parity explored through all the layers and textures of higher strings employed far more often than banal open chord chugging. Black Death Horizon is not an album of breakdowns, but a movement from one bleak ritual to the next which occasionally deigns to rock your goddamn socks off. It's such a natural flow to it that it sounds the natural throughput of twisted minds, not the meticulous mosh hymnal you'll find of most modern death metal. Thus, this fully falls into the 'retro' or 'nostalgia' camp without obeying the rules.
Also have to complement the drumming, which shifts between warlike, sparse cadence to a more black metal based combination of snares and kicks through the blast-work. The title of this record is no joke, I do actually feel like fans of older Mayhem, Marduk and Darkthrone will get just as much a kick out of this effort as those seeking another Altars of Madness, Onward to Golgotha or Mental Funeral. There's an unpredictable nature about how they've written this (much like the second album) that keeps it fresh and frightening throughout, and the bonus atmospherics like cleaner chanted vocals and ominous droning throat passages show an ethnic flexibility in musical influence that promises the unusual. Not that they're the first group to pull this off, but they do it with restraint...never seeming out of place or like some shallow stab at sounding 'different'. Black Death Horizon makes as much sense musically as a fiery cataclysm that ends civilization by blanketing the firmament with a blanket of soot. In listening, you can just hear all the humans choke through their final moments as they reach forth to touch any glimpse of a glittering star beyond the hazy death beyond their reach. The lucky ones will be disintegrated in magma, but not you, fair listener...no, you will suffocate until the very end, watching your neighbors and loved ones perish. That's the sound of one kickass death metal disc, venner.
Verdict: Epic Win [9/10]
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
I guess it makes sense: there haven't really been any releases in the interim to make those evolutionary baby steps that mark a band's passage through the aeons. For example, if you were to listen through Vanquish in Vengeance and then compare it back to Mortal Throne of Nazarene, there would be some disparity in performance and theme which come naturally with such a lengthy progression (though Incantation has never entirely deviated from its Relapse Records roots). But apart from a few production tweaks, Hung by the Eyesockets sounds exactly like the three songs stepped out from the Iniquitous recording sessions, went out to a bar and got so drunk and hungover that they couldn't make it back the next morning. Now their night of debauchery is revealed! The tone of the guitars is indeed more rank and voluptuous, and in fact I'd say it sounded a fraction more 'Swedish' than the bulky Autopsy crunch of the debut album, but it largely recaptures the more hellish grinding and groovier moments of the ancient full-length like flies in amber.
I did feel like the drums on this thing were a level or so too loud in the mix, to the point that they can clutter up my appreciation of the guitars. Funnily enough, this is a trait I'd also attribute to Putrevore, the amazing Spanish/Swedish collaboration which seems in part like a tribute to this very band (or at least the Penn State inspired brand of death metal subterranea). In the end, though, I could make out most of the riffs, and while they were nothing extraordinary in terms of Rottrevore's past, they're convincing enough. The leads are quite clamorous and murky but then this isn't Eddie Van fucking Halen to begin with, so the dissonance and chaos implied seem to at least prove a fit to the rhythmic structure. Bass tone is a bit too smooth, I would have preferred something more dissonant to stand out against those repulsive guitars; the intensity of the playing here ensures that it is less noticeable than on Iniquitous, but the whole experience is just so low end and brutal that you won't notice the difference unless you're specifically listening for that. Most importantly, Chris Weber's nihilistic guttural sounds fantastic...I always thought he was the logical competitor to Craig Pillard, and comparing him to the vocals on the Disma debut...
These myriad reunions always generate some natural controversy, since it seems the bands only reform when the style of music they once helped pioneer has appreciated in audience (thanks, internet), and at a time when bands like Convulse and Purtenance are also pinching off new loaves of loathsome, ugly death metal on the Finnish side of the pond, why not Rottrevore? Has Abhorrence re...yes, yes they have. What about Demilich? Eh, Nespithe is perfect enough that I don't need another. Ultimately, wehen we're dealing with this very inaccessible side of the genre-spectrum, though, it's difficult to believe that the groups are in it for anything more than nostalgia. Autopsy might be able to afford a tour bus, but Rottrevore will not be moving up to the top floors of Trump Tower, or purchasing a Fiji island anytime soon. So, yeah, if you did enjoy Iniquitous and sought more of the same in the ensuing decades, I cannot imagine the squamous slaughter present throughut Hung by the Eyesockets will deeply offend you. It's certainly nothing amazing, but it IS pretty intense, and while it was originally only available as a digital release last year (called Blind Sided Attack), a proper MCD has been pressed by XTreem Records, allowing Dave Rotten (who by no coincidence is the vocalist for Putrevore, in addition to Avulsed) to keep his heroes in-house.
Verdict: Win [7.5/10] (running chainsaws with their teeth)
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Well, after quite a lengthy hiatus, eight years to be exact, the followup to Cadaver Art has at last arrived and presents us with another fairly standard variety of brutal death tropes drawn from both the late 80s/early 90s emissions of bands like Suffocation, Pestilence and Deicide as well as their own later 90s peers like those I named above, or None So Vile-era Cryptopsy. On the plus side, the level of exaction and musicianship here pretty much destroys their older offerings, with some phenomenal bass lines/fills and a drop of a dime precision punch between brutal chugging passages and flights of frenzied, clinical harmonies that do the cover artwork much justice. It doesn't hurt that they've wrangled a few members of Malignancy into the roster here, and ramped up their own individual skill levels, this is that same surgical sensibility that Masticate to Dominate and To Desecrate and Defile celebrated, leaving the listener stuck between both the bludgeon and the scalpel, both pretty equally effective as implements of aural destruction. I honestly do not have a lot of complaints about The Blueprint for Blood Spatter: If you've heard their prior output, it delivers...but just how much?
Danny Nelson's vocal performance here doesn't really deviate much from Malignancy or a wealth of other bands on that same level...grunts and snarls derived from Barnes, Benton, Fisher, Vincent and maybe a little bit of Will Rahmer, without much distinction of their own. The guitar playing is quite diverse, though, ranging from small shots of dissonant higher string chords to spiraling body bag melodies and then plenty of bursts of blasting fortitude, broken up by groove hooks that thankfully never feel too cheap, though a number of the palm muted progressions are bland and mildly uninspired. The drums are just about unstoppable, with a load of points where the bulk of the guitars will disappear and Anthony Ipri is left to import some creativity and almost perform drum solos to the listener's anticipation of their re-emergence ("Chloroform Induced Trance"), and the bass playing is just fucking awesome with tons of farting, murky, bubbly squelching pops and melodic fill runs that help fill in any creative void left by the two guitarists. The Blueprint as a whole is one of low-end propulsion and instinctual, chaotic celerity...well plotted, but jerky to the degree that you can't always predict exactly what will come next in any situation, so it's a fun record to explore.
That said, will it top mine or many other death metal buffs' year end lists for 2013? I can't say that will be the case personally, but not for any lack of trying. It's no Colored Sands, Kingdom of Conspiracy or Pinnacle of Bedlam, but clearly there were tunes here like "Jugular Gurgle" and "Chloroform Induced Trance" that I felt myself eagerly returning to; this just isn't a consistent quality across all the album. Mortal Decay sounds on point, to the extent that the eight year absence is easily forgiven and it sounds appropriately like Cadaver Art's more adventurous and unrestrained younger sibling, but there are places where the group lacks a little character to separate itself from a large swath of its peers. Still, I do feel like execution and planning of this Blueprint are adept enough that it wouldn't take many more trips to the drafting table to transform this band's capabilities into something truly extraordinary.
Verdict: Win [7.25/10]
Monday, November 18, 2013
Nothing out of left field, and nothing extraordinary if you've been around this music the past 20+ years, but I'm reminded of other acts like Horrendous who have managed to take those inspirations and make them feel new again, or rather to make me feel like the mullet-sporting newspaper delivery dork who used to memorize every damn tremolo picked progression on every damn death metal cassette he could acquire at the ripe age of 15. Extra, extra, bleed all about it! Add to that the present day production capabilities and Disfigurement simply shattered my expectations, and maintained a consistent level of competence and quality for the 23 minutes and 5 songs this EP endures. Shrill, atmospheric leads writhe their way through a lattice of intense, churning, molten guitars that flirt with that classic overseas tone of the 90s, but settle for something robust and visceral without reaching that oversaturated level crunch. Drums are loud, proud and never sound particularly falsified or processed like a lot of drummers playing at this level in more technical outfits.
The vocalist is also quite a 'catch', he's got those bellowing Benton/Tucker depth growls that shake and resonate but also a bit of Corpsegrinder gutturality (new word, I swear) and then some raspier passages to develop variation in the lines. Bass is pretty potent; although the lines don't distinguish themselves from the rhythm tracks, you're never unaware of its presence. But ultimately, where the band succeeds the most is in structuring these songs...always leaping full force into some intense new battery, regardless of what tempo they have settled upon...think Domination meets Litany meets Once Upon the Cross and then foster that tryst with a fair ratio of memorable riffing, sporadic fits of extraworldly leads/melodies and then of course the resonance that front man brings to the entire affair. I'm not promising that this is 100% memorable fare, or that the riffs escape derivation often enough to generate a sense of nuance and wonder, but Soul Rot is another reminder that the old school sweatshop of the past 5-10 years is not necessarily played out to its fullest, and that with a little talent and focus on song structure the best could be yet to come...
Verdict: Win [8/10]