As someone who spends a lot of time listening to over-the-top music, the notion of scarcity is one that I admire--even if that means gazing longingly from across the vast expanse of the promo pit’s turbulent waters. And so, my ears a-buzz from that which came before, I cast about looking for something that doesn’t dwell in complexity. A band that breaks their craft down to the basic elements. To this end, a two-piece instrumental death metal band seemed like it would do the trick--guitar, drums, and nothing else to complicate the matter. And so, without reading any biographical info beyond that, I fired up Fermentor, expecting some straightforward death tunes, sans vocals. In other words, the “lo-fi beats to chill to” of the death metal ecosystem.
...And man, was I ever wrong.
Far from eschewing complexity, this dynamic duo fuckin’ revels in that shit. Whereas most groups would be significantly hindered by the lack of bass, vocals, and other such (seemingly necessary) fluff, Fermentor give "scarcity" a fresh coat of paint. Across the full span of Continuance’s runtime--which, for the record, is, like, totally normal--these guys deliver an intriguing and nuanced performance. The genre waters get a little murky as well; frankly, without vocals, it’s easy to imagine Fermentor's stock brand of instrumentation fitting into a variety of aesthetics. That said, there is remarkably little in the way of “stock.” Whether flitting over thrashy pastures, sliding into smoky jazz-lounge-from-hell apparel, or stomping over the line where the technicality and unpredictability hits a level of proficiency that practically qualifies it the mathcore leagues, Continuance qualifies as an unpredictable ride no matter how you slice it.
Gaps between tracks become somewhat meaningless to the overall experience, so listening feels, at times, like basking in the midst of a single composition. That said, there’s a lot of moments that make you sit up and pay attention. Take the pseudo-breakdown of “Mechanism,” which somehow balances pulverization with whiplash-inducing freneticism. It’s like being drawn and quartered, but instead of four points of contact, you’re being pulled in fifty different directions. Rending of flesh and spillage of organs predictably ensues. Followup track "The Decay of Western Society" treats us to a vaguely bluesy intro, and then a barrage of relentless percussive fills punctuated with riffs so brief and chaotic that they hardly qualify as such. Moving on to the album’s midpoint, “Landbridge” is perhaps the strongest indication of the technical skill on display, boasting chaotic and forward-thinking thrash riffage wrapped in energetic dissonance.
Promo material indicates that “riffs whizz past like bullets and the drums fire off into hyper-speed,” and I’m more than inclined to agree. Everything herein--both in terms of this particular track and the album as a whole--feels fleeting, but in a good way. Delightfully fresh-faced in its ability to deliver ideas and then spin around to an unexpected topic and approach with nary a backward glance. That said, it’s not so much a child-in-a-candy-store approach wherein everything feels hyperactively disconnected. Rather, there appears to be an underlying logic and calculated and/or sensical mindset to the apparent madness. Due to a certain inherent lack of structure, the back half of the album does start to lose its excitement factor by a margin, but all told, Fermentor’s brand is such that I’m never really bored. The short spoken word sample on closer “Project Zeus” is honestly a nice surprise, and while vocals certainly aren’t necessary, so additional elements such as this would have added another layer of interest throughout.
I’ve caught myself wondering if Fermentor would be better if they pulled in the remaining hallmarks of death metal--namely, a bassist and vocalist. All told, however, I don’t think they would benefit from the accessorization. Interestingly enough, as the wacky riffage provides a high level of intrigue, the only instance I could see of Fermentor benefiting from extra sauce would be the application of some bass nestled into those gentlest and jazziest moments. But hell, I’m no musician--who am I to say? The lack of vocals is honestly the hallmarks of a potential calling card. In a world with technical players, the teamwork exhibited within the confines of this duo's latest effort is truly Fermentor’s greatest strength. Why throw vocals in there just for the sake of it? In short: recommended, even if it ain't the simplistic soundtrack to languidity I was initially expecting.
Fermentor - Continuance will be released June 12th. Thus: you've still got a while before this bad boy is released, but in the meantime, there's three singles available over on bandcamp.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!