To be frank, I approached Four Dimensional Flesh with immense trepidation. Brutal death metal and/or slam aren’t exactly locales I find myself frequenting with any kind of regularity--if I pass through, it’s usually a lone track in the midst of an otherwise innocuous playlist. While the dedication to slammin’ riffs and woodpecker-on-a-hot-tin-roof percussive fills are certainly attractive bedfellows, the trademark drainpipe gutturals and resonance chamber bree-brees really ain’t this scribes cup o’ vox.
And yet here we are, plumbing the gurgling pipes with a grim sense of glee. Why? Because Afterbirth, much like Wormhole, strives to make slam interesting. And it is this quality that remains Four Dimensional Flesh’s greatest strength amongst strengths.
If medical waste is unceremoniously disposed, as I like to imagine, in a dumpster out back behind the hospital, San Jose's Aseptic is the resulting viscera stew that oozes from bio-hazard bags and pools in the bottom. Not sure what I mean? Just imbibe in the sluicing juices and slimy riffage of Cascading Fluids' "Intro." If you're still having trouble painting said picture--and god help you if that's the case--it may help to take note of the irrefutable fact that this EP legitimately sounds like it was recorded in a dumpster.
Hyperbole aside, this is good stuff. If you happen to be familiar with Aseptic’s stellar Senses Decay EP, just know that this is an entirely different kind of beast. Same killer riffs, but the aesthetic is stripped to the goddamn bone.
If necessity is the mother of invention, nostalgia is the mother of stagnation. And, like pond scum in a scummy pond, the revitalization of old school death metal--with the Portland scene being a particularly prolific example--revels in nostalgia. Normally a bad thing, sure. But in the case of OSDM, the best and the brightest revel (righteously so) in the worship of legacy genre motifs. And, unlike many genres under the sun, I would argue that these backward-looking outfits--bands that don’t strive to make strides--can indeed be responsible for some of the most unabashedly fun heavy music available. Enter Coffin Rot, with their debut album in tow.
I was first impressed by these guys when they first put out an EP with a gnarly logo and gnarlier riffs. Then they dropped a split EP with fellow OSDMites Molder, and I was sold, fully and completely. In my review of the latter, I stated these “Oregonian underground plague merchants display an instant maturity...as they dig up bodies with a steam shovel.” Here, I’m pleased to report that A Monument to the Dead is more of the same--if you were to take the same, that is, and crank it up about, erm, 11 notches. Any and all ample promise these corpse-lickers displayed last year is amplified tenfold here. The result? Easily the best straight OSDM worship released in 2019, in this particular scribes’ inflated opinion.
While many of you are likely aware of the plague pit we keep out back here at the Sleeping Village, a better kept secret is our vomit pit. That's where we go when the going gets...gross. Luckily, Pornographic Seizures, the debut from Ohio's nigh unpronounceable Sanguisugabogg, comes with an appropriate warning on the label: "we are not responsible for any instantaneous vomiting upon listening." Thanks, guys. Long story short, we made it out to the aforementioned vomit pit prior to hitting play on this 4-track grotesquerie , and everyone is for the better because of it.
Pornographic Seizures is just that: gross. Obviously. And in that spirit, as is the case of most metal of this variety, it's a bit of a race to see how many negative words I can attribute in a positive light.
The news-report strains of ‘“From the Graves We March” rise, with staticky dial-up gravitas, above the groans. Without further ado it's officially on: Apocalypse by way of Zombie, the viscerally apropos downfall of humanity as we know it. Is there really any better fodder for a death metal album? I think not, and, evidently, neither does the international two-piece Reign of Terror. Comprised of Jereth Fewings on the instrumentation and Oscar Diaz handling vocal duties, these guys brandish their influences on their sleeves with a forthright pride, citing and recalling their heroes--be it Death, Deicide, or Dethklok, among a host of others--with the glee that one simply can not fake. I mean, just look at the logo. These guys love death metal, and their debut album is a well-conceived expression of said passion.
Decimation of Mankind is defined in many ways by the toilet-gurgle vocal stylings, which will either suck you in or reject you violently, depending entirely on your tolerance for the regurgatorial approach of, say, Aborted, Deicide, or Dying Fetus. In our track premiere for “Sacrificial Slaughter," the expulsive vocal tendencies of Vomitory were brought into play, and that descriptor continues to hold well here. Mr. Diaz displays a balance between gurgles and screams mightily, layering a certain raspy scream that, at it's best, inject a little hardcore ‘tude into the melting pot. While, as a whole, the vocals are improved upon in Reign of Terror’s sophomore release, they are still energetic and remarkably dynamic on Decimation.
Given the prior stage-setting, I hesitate to use the term "clean” in reference to Decimation of Mankind, but no bones about it: this is good clean death metal. Nothing flashy. Nothing heady. Just good ol’ brain-pummeling. As it should be. That said, the majority of the tracks herein are strangely hypnotic--recalling, oddly enough, a darkwave-esque sonic quality. Dance With the Dead comes to mind, in terms of the lurching riffs that ebb and flow, typically muffled and subdued by the sheer force of the vocals, but occasionally forthright in a show of primal ferocity.
This album is stuffed to the brim with fun moments. Take the simple yet invigorating buildup on “Thy Savior is Thy End,” which never fails to elicit an ill-advised neck whipping. The eventual tempo changes on this track do wonders to avoid stagnation, as do the electronic leanings on “The Plague”--one of the albums more intriguing moments. “Machine of Vengeance” is an absolute goddamn barnburner, rivaled only by its immediate follow-up in terms of violent zeal. “Creation Breeds Decimation” is a stellar track, grinding and driving with assertive abandon. Here, the Reign of Terror formula operates at its best, as the vocals, guitar, and percussion mesh together in a relentlessly satisfying sense. Tracks such as this demonstrate that at their best, Reign of Terror are genuinely following--and filling--the footprints of brutal death's giants. Tying things up with an intestinal bow, the album ends off with the purely atmospheric church bell ringing of “...And to the Graves We Return.” While outros are largely unnecessary, it works in Reign in Terror's benefit to bring the overall narrative to a satisfying close.
From a needs-improvement standpoint, there are several aspects of note. The first--as is often the case when this particular villager turns a critical eye--is song length. This particular brand of death benefits from punchy runtimes, and with multiple songs stretching across the 6 and 7 minute marks, a trimmed refrain here or there would serve each track's individual impact. As a result, the album’s back half--home to some of the shorter tracks on display--is the more impressive. The vocal cadence is another sticking point, as a similar chanting rhythm appears enough times across the album to become overly familiar. That said, in both cases Reign of Terror's sophomore effort is a giant step in the right direction. Self correction in practice.
Bottom line? These guys aren't revolutionaries of the death metal scene by any means...but this is death metal, after all, and the vast majority of the time all we're looking for is a neck-snapping good time. To this end, Reign in Terror deliver in spades. And if you’re a fan Decimation, fear not: they release new music on a ridiculously impressive timeline, and, as mentioned, their follow-up, entitled Revolution Through Violence, is already out. Listen to "Thy Savior is Thy End" below:
Providing thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy, and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry.