Thursday, January 8, 2015

Mortal Decay - The Blueprint for Blood Spatter (2014; Comatose Music)

“Could this head belong to a young adult female…”

Oh Mortal Decay, we have such a love / hate relationship.  Sickening Erotic Fanaticism is one of my favourite records from the 90’s, mixing great death metal riffage with some incredibly heavy breakdowns similar to Suffocation,  all the while keeping things fresh and fun. It was, and still is a great listen, I’d even go as far to call it an underrated classic. But after that, things went downhill fast with Forensic and Cadaver Art, which while competent albums, really did nothing for me in the long run. I had given up on them like so many other acts I’d once loved, and to be honest, I wasn’t too excited when I’d heard about their reunion.  I came into The Blueprint for Blood Spatter quite skeptical to say the least, I thought it would be mediocre at best.  Good god was I ever wrong.

The Blueprint for Blood Splatter is everything I could’ve ever wanted from Mortal Decay, and more, with quite a few surprises that one would not expect from the stereotypical Brutal Death Metal album.  As one would expect, all the Brutal Death Metal stereotypes are here, riff salads, blast beats, slow and punishing breakdowns / slams, and indecipherable vocals, but it’s all used in a fresh and varied way that keeps you interested the entire way through. A lot of thought and care has been put into the compositions here, and it shows.

Instrumentally, everything is on point here. John Hartman (Waking The Cadaver) and Joe Gordon handle guitar duties, and do a bang up job of it. They’ve kept the old school feel while adding in some newer influences (some passages sound like Nile and Decrepit Birth), and even add  in some black metal flavour that not many bands of their ilk would be brave enough to do. Take "Nocuous Compulsions" for example, the beginning riff sounds like something you would hear off an Endstille album, but with a little more crunch and groove added in for good effect. The break halfway in even sounds like something Nightbringer would do.

The low end is just as impressive. Anthony Ipri is impeccable on drums, with punishing blastbeats, fills, and lots of groove. There’s a lot more variety on the kit than one would expect, all the while not being overly flashy or pretentious. Monty Mukerji does a wonderful job on bass as well, and you can even hear the bass (!), which is a rarity in this style. It doesn’t seem like he’s just following what the guitarists do either, he adds his own little fills and what I can only assume are slaps, which adds a bouncy and fun nature to the songs that would otherwise not be there.

But what has to be the icing on the cake is Danny Nelson’s (of Malignancy fame) vocals. He is on top of his game here, utilizing a wide variety of vocal techniques, every one of them as ferocious as the last. "Mourning Euphoria" is a great example of this, with Danny jumping from some pretty impressive, and almost decipherable death growls, into some pretty wet and disgusting gutturals, and even adding in some highs that gave me goosebumps.  His vocal phrasing is impressive as well, with every line he utters fitting in and complimenting the accompanying music perfectly.

I must say I am ecstatic to hear Mortal Decay back with such ferocity, and I gladly admit that I was wrong to ever doubt them.  I implore all of you who are into acts like Suffocation, Devourment, and even older Cannibal Corpse, pick this up as soon as possible. And for the love of god, pick up their back catalogue and give it a thorough listen, you won’t be disappointed.

Down From The Wound - Violence And The Macabre (2014; Comatose Music)

Down From The Wound are finally back, bringing their early-Suffocation and Devourment influenced slam death to life once again. Returning to the style of their debut, Agony Through Rituals Of Self-Purification (1/8/14 note: I still have the shirt from when the debut was released 7 years ago... jeez, it's been a while, eh?) and seeking to improve upon it in almost every aspect, this was definitely a hotly-anticipated album of mine when it was first announced. The album opens up with a rolling slam assault featuring very creative drumming and a touch of old-school charm that really harkens back to some of the best slam riffs ever written here and there. Halfway through the first song, for instance, there's a full-stop change-up that leads to a completely new section, very much like in the classic "Postmortal Coprophagia" by the masters themselves. The vocal performance seems rather flat and unengaging compared to some other bands, but it's not bad and keeps time very well, alternating slightly between a dark, one-dimensional growl to a more guttural vociferation that does, every now and then, hit the spot intensely.

The structure of these songs is typically fantastically detailed, with lots of amusing flourishes and creative deviations from the tropes of slam, all the while still staying purely in bounds of the whole "third world slam" phenomenon that DFTW has always been squarely at the center of (at least to me and some others I know, anyhow... you know who you are!). The way riffs pile up and crash down with spastic aplomb while the tight yet similarly intense drumming spastically hurries to keep up is just intense and satisfying, and the production this time is particularly detailed towards bringing out the best of each member. "Hypocritical Repentance" has this insanely well built-up slam section that, after a measure, just kind of ceases... until you realize it's building up for an even bigger, more amazing slam. That kind of transition is something very few bands have ever attempted, let alone mastered, and this album has these kinds of things all over the place. Some really amusing chuggy grooves pop out here and there that don't quite really become (or have the capability to become) full-fledged slams, and the band rides on them for adequate periods before deciding to switch to a blasty or rolling section focused on a few new riffs. DFTW has always been really good at writing music, that much is certain, but each track feels much more distinct on this album than on the debut, and that's pretty high praise considering that "Agony..." is a fantastically-well-crafted album in its own right, combining technicality and grittiness into a slam masterpiece that I feel has always been kind of overlooked compared to the more well-produced stuff coming out of Russia, the Americas or Europe as a whole. Consequently, I've always considered the Filipino slam scene as kind of a cousin to Colombian/Sudamerican slam with its eye towards chaos at all times, yet firmly entrenched in a singular, devastating approach that can never and will never be compromised.

Once again, in a manner similar to the debut, DFTW has crafted a multitude of fairly-lengthy songs that all go through twists and turns before arriving at endings that are either extremely cathartic or that feel pent-up, ready to unleash the chaos and brutality in the next riff, the next slam, the next section. "Schematic Fraud" begins with a section much like the latter example, with the fury of the previous track wrapping up seemingly out of nowhere, collapsing into a controlled devastation of quick slams and semi-melodic riffs punctuated by amusing, upbeat snare flourishes before the song reaches its climactic, intense midpoint leading to a very powerful, tension-building slam at the end. "Beyond The Depths Of Epidemic Abortion" (what a title, guys) reminds me a bit of mid-to-later period Cenotaph in its spazziness and inability to stick with a time signature for more than four seconds throughout that first major section, but DFTW quickly regain control and develop a 9-note slam motif that becomes a 10-note slam with the addition of a threatening, predatory half-step making the proceedings all too carnivorous. The variance in drumming on this release is one of the major things keeping me coming back, honestly; the slams and general flow of the album are intensely great, but Randyl's detailed and multifaceted attention to his kit is commanding of a lot of attention on this album, catapulting it into the realm of some of the best feral, technical slam I've heard... ever. I'm sure Lille from Defeated Sanity is an influence on Randyl, and it shows in the slight cymbal pulls and snare highlights, where he chooses to switch from a blurred snare blast to a particularly clean, resonant, bright ping that punctuates sweet-spots in slams.

The title track is a devastating assault of evil tremolo and slam combinations that wear out the listener within the first thirty seconds; just as an attention-deficit slam makes an appearance before switching back to the Deeds of Flesh-like picking aspects and complex iterations of the main riff return drastically, ready to break your neck as the four-piece stumbles into several blasty sections before they break it all down again with a catchy slam punctuated by ride and china crashes. Then begins probably one of the most epic slams on this album; the kind of shit that just makes you stop what you're doing and worship the breakdown. Featuring a nine-noter into hanging chords before becoming a slightly-slower and more intense version, this is the crowning achievement so far; a centerpiece slam if there ever was one! The rest of the album features lots of ups and downs, but I'm just not into doing track-by-tracks anymore, so let it be said that this will easily be one of the best slam albums of 2014, and if anyone has a problem with that, they'll have to answer to me (and I defend my opinions very strongly). Listening to this reminds me of just starting this blog, as that was around when DFTW was really coming into their own.

It's insane to me that this was so long in the making; not because it doesn't seem like they improved in that time (faaaaar from that, actually... the chops, production and personality are way ahead of "Agony..." on this one), but because it reminds me of Slam-Minded's humble beginnings. My interview with Randyl was one of the first things I remember working with Nick on collaboratively. When we landed it, I felt like an honest-to-goodness superstar, and I couldn't have been more happy at that time. Lots of things have happened to bring me to where I am now, and I can tell that the songwriters of Down From The Wound have also been affected as profoundly by the years; they have emerged from that time period as frontrunners of technical yet raw slam death, dedicated unwaveringly and tirelessly to intense, complex and forward-thinking brutality on "Violence And The Macabre"; brutality that somehow never ceases to impress throughout its immensely long running time of approximately 50 minutes. The rabid and vicious switches between sections on this album just feel necessary and weighty; these are things some clinical "slam" will never achieve... a true feeling of predatory sickness with an aim specifically to deliver pure brutality and intensity to the listener, but not without meaning. On the contrary, every song here feels like it has a place in the whole, and, although several listens will probably be necessary to catch some of the more specific nuances, it is worth each and every one. A hearty round of applause to the reigning masters of Filipino slam death!

(As a side note, this album has one of those weird, semi-pointless, feedback-laden "interlude" things almost exactly like Putridity's "Wallowing In Aftermaths" from Degenerating Anthropological Euphoria. What the fuck are these? They're retarded and awesome. I need to come up with a name for this if it's gonna keep happening. Defeated Sanity even had some version of one at the end of "Verblendung" off their newest album, though that was even more bizarre. These should have a name and more bands should have them; I think this is a chance for one of the crazier tropes of slam to have a real pull... just sayin'... I mean, I did coin "funeral slam", after all, and that's gotta count for something...)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Cognitive - Cognitive (2014;Pathologically Explicit Recordings)

Well, here we are once again with some album reviews, that make's it one article a year? We've really got to get our shit together, haha.

That being said, Cognitive are a little known five-piece based out of New Jersey, USA. They play a slightly hardcore-tinged style of brutal technical death metal with obvious nods to the genres creators Suffocation, and even some to fellow New Jerseyites (Jerseyers? I have no idea), Waking The Cadaver. Expect some incredibly technical playing, massive grooves, crushing blastbeats, and surprisingly enunciated vocals.

The guitar playing, handled by Jake Iannaco and Rob Wharton is incredibly busy, while at the same time being tasteful, melodic, and oddly enough, progressive. From the guitar leads and solos on World's Beneath, to the atmospheric playing near the end of The Aftermath, their guitar playing encompasses everything one would want from this genre. The guitar tone also reminds me of newer Waking The Cadaver, although with more heft and clarity, which is a great thing.

The low end is quite impressive as well, being held down by Mike Castro on drums, and Art Sikora on bass. The drumming, while nothing that will make your jaw drop, accentuates the riffs perfectly, and never seems to be technical just for the sake of it. The bass player holds his own as well, and although I wish the production would allow him to be heard a little bit more, which is my only real nitpick, he does an admirable job.

The vocals could be the make it or break it thing for most people though, as Jorel Hart isn't the typical vocalist for this style. He's guttural while still enunciating quite well, but also jumps into some pseudo-hardcore style vocals. They may not be guttural enough for the average Brutal Death Metal / Slam fan, but at the same time they might be a bit too out there for the standard Death Metal fan. At the end of the day though, for me, I have come to greatly enjoy his vocal style.

I must say, I'm truly surprised these guys aren't blowing up. The songwriting chops employed on this record are stupendous, everything fits perfectly. The musicianship on here is as about as good as you'll find in the genre. And hell, their style easily crosses over from Tech Death, to Brutal Death, to Hardcore, and should appeal to fans of all three genres. This is a must buy for me.





Monday, October 28, 2013

SLAM SHOW REVIEW: 10/27 - Wormed, Condemned, Infernal Revulsion, Cognitive, Parasitic Extirpation

Welcome back to Slam-Minded, kids! I know many have been waiting for a return from us here for many months, so when I heard that this insanely brutal lineup was to make a stop through Cambridge, MA, where I would just so happen to be the night before for a beer-related event, I knew it was destiny that I'd attend, headbang and eventually write up my thoughts. So, here goes... be easy on me, I'm a tad rusty at writing about things that don't begin with 'b' and end with 'r'.

I brought along my buddy Chris, who is rather new to slam and interested in learning more about it, who brought his girlfriend along. Also in attendance was another good friend who left somewhat early during the show in order to get reasonable sleep for the start of his work-week (wimp). Anyway, although Chris is very willing to delve further into slam, his girlfriend was previously unaware of our lovely genre, but I think the show might have been a good conversion for her. The venue was the Cambridge Elks Lodge on Bishop Allen Drive, and we thought it was supposed to open at 5, but it turned out the doors were at 6, and, indeed, when we arrived at 5:05, the bands hadn't even shown up to load in yet. So in true time-wasting fashion, we hit up one of the best local bars (Lord Hobo, of course) in the area and returned to the scene, where a massive crowd of dudes in black shirts was pouring in to the shoddy basement. Oh yeah, awesome setting for a slam event! Extremely ratty and run-down looking, this Elks Lodge has clearly seen better days, but these seedy environs would soon prove themselves worthy of a true beatdown.

Parasitic Extirpation was first up, and I was surprised to see Mallika of Abnormality grab the mic and begin to do her check along with the other members. Didn't know she was doing vocals for them these days but, then again, I don't really pay as much attention as I used to, admittedly. The band only played about 20 minutes (5 or so songs), but they were surprisingly good. I remember I had some criticism about their Knee Deep in Disease EP from way back in the day (2008, for the S-M OGs among you all), but overall, I didn't find the release bad, and tonight they were in rare form with big, pit-opening slams, Mallika tearing through the crowd while vocalizing all manner of ugliness and perversion, and fantastic drumming. The biggest letdown for this band were the absolutely stupid, pointless wanky solos that pervaded every single song with pretentious bullshit shredding. I hate crap like this; one second I'm listening to a great slam, then all the power is just sucked out and wasted on a song-dividing solo that doesn't improve the music in any meaningful way. Definitely looked like he was just playing them cuz they felt "cool", not because they were actually supportive of the songs. Also, the vocal mixing was poor, and could have been tweaked to make Mallika much louder, as she was fairly quiet and, though she looked powerful doing her thing, not much of that power was sonically conveyed. Then again, when I've seen Abnormality before, it's been almost the same kind of deal, so I don't know. Regardless, pretty great slams when they were happening, very varied and interesting drum-work, solid playing in spite of distracting solos, and very heavy, brutal sound. They got me moving several times, so that's cool, as I feel like I'm pretty slam-jaded in some ways.


Cognitive is a band I've never heard of, although they are apparently tech-death and from NJ. Seems like they'd be the odd ones out on this bill, right? Not really, as it happens. They slammed quite a bit, playing some fast, blasty songs with lots of satisfying time changes. Vocally excellent with a commanding and heavy riff presence (despite not having a bassist), this band was fairly good at making brutal music, though not entirely unique or well-thought-out, as a lot of tech-death can happen to be. One thing that was amusing and a bit distracting with them, though, was that both guitarists would at times just kind of randomly seize about and make bizarre movements that seemed very forced and goofy, not matching the precision and exacting nature of the music. Their newest music seemed a lot more slammy, which was cool, but jarred a bit with some of the more spastic stuff they jammed out earlier in the set. Bonus points for interesting lead-work; almost every song had some kind of cool lead that basically involved heavily-effected single note picking, similar to In-Quest, particularly on their album Epileptic. I just realized there's an amusing link between that album's title and the members of the band spazzing about, but I digress. Not bad, but the best was yet to come.

Condemned... this band and I have an interesting past, one that happens to have begun with quarrel, though it led to eventual contentment. As one of those curmudgeonly people who found Desecrate the Vile to be an intensely tiring, one-dimensional release of boring slam-and-blast blur, I recall approaching Realms of the Ungodly with trepidation, both because the art and change in aesthetic direction seemed really cool and I was worried about them screwing it up, and because longer songs in the same style brought on a bit of a bitter taste. Luckily, they switched up their playing style a little bit, injecting some great atmosphere, and a lot of these aspects came together just great live. Angel's vocals were powerful and brutal, though a bit less gurgly/goofy than on albums, which was a disappointment. Forrest was blasting away intensely for the majority of the set, as they tackled most of the songs on Realms... (somehow leaving out "Submerged unto Phlegethon", which was just lame and unfortunate in my opinion... maybe something to do with the fact that another Phlegethon was there; Wormed's vocalist!), with a few from Desecrate... for good measure. Those were fine in the flesh, which I was satisfied with; I had a distinct feeling they would be, as their blurry and straightforward style works a lot better when you're not picking everything apart like with an album review. One of the best things about Condemned is that their slams are very unpredictable and often switch halfway through to a blasting section or similar change-up that can convincingly bewilder many troglodytic spinkickers in the pit, as was observed somewhat often during the entirety of their set. The slightly manipulative nature of their music worked very well in this basement-like atmosphere, and they had really great, heavy sound that filled the whole room. Angel was funny with his overwhelmed, end-of-tour banter between songs (my favorite moments included calling Infernal Revulsion "Infernal Convulsion", laughing and correcting himself, as well as when he couldn't read his own writing on the setlist attached to one of the cabinets and announced the wrong song before catching himself and commenting on it hurriedly), and you could tell he was just trying to bang songs out without much delay. It worked well with the hurried, semi-sloppy way the songs can appear to be constructed, especially apparent when Forrest's kick rolls or gravity blasts would go on just slightly too long or not long enough. Pretty killer set here, though I wish I had been closer for it.

For Infernal Revulsion, I got my wish and moved up closer with Chris; so close, in fact, that if I headbanged any further forward, I would've hit one of the guitarist's headstocks! It was great to be so close to some live Japanese slam, and they really killed it with varied barking/gurgling/yelling vocal approaches, super low-tuned bass (that the dude played like an upright double bass with finger-picking; killer!) and some inventive riffs wrapped around a huge menagerie of beatdown-slams and catchy groove sections. They were absolutely fantastic live; some real slam-worship was going on here and there, and the band was super into it themselves; their lead singer just about cued every impending breakdown or switch-up with some full-body movement; intense! I have always been fond of Infernal Revulsion's way of writing slightly predatory slams; the way they leave notes hanging and how they get you into a big groove only to switch it up with a new rhythm or way of coupling the base notes are very effective ways to keep the crowd going and keep the pit full. I, of course, stay away from the pit because I'm a tiny person (for the record, if you were at the show, I was the short dude with the High & Mighty Beer Co. shirt on; cheers!), but I glanced behind me in between bouts of rhythmic headbanging to find many people stomping to the rhythm, so it must've been appropriately effective, anyway. Alright, now to the big thumbs-down about this set; the motherfucking kick drum. Dear god, why? I know Devastate Under Hallucination featured this too, but it was just wickedly overbearing in a live venue; extremely treble-y and clicky and louder than every other drum on the guy's kit... which was lame because he was a totally showboating, crazy performer and could clearly play well; he spun his sticks at just about every opportunity and engaged with the crowd during the last few songs in a very "80's hair metal" kind of way with the beckoning for applause and whatnot; amusing and a good change from the lack of personality many death metal drummers exhibit. I was glad to have been right up front for these guys; they were quite a bit of fun and their kind of singularly-focused groovy slam with heavy, charging rhythms was the perfect setup to the headliners of the night...

WORMED. Now, if you know me, you know I am an utter devotee of Planisphaerium, an album that changed how I think about metal when I first heard it, one that I know most of the lyrics and vocal phrasings of by heart and one that means quite a bit to me. When I first heard Exodromos, therefore, I was skeptical and a bit disappointed by the change. I know that the Quasineutrality EP represented a fairly significant change for them, but it still had the certain unabashed heaviness and animalistic, extraterrestrial nature of Wormed at their core. Thus, you can see why I may have been a bit disappointed with the new album. Actually, I'll come right out and say that I don't like it very much at all. The change in drummer has hurt them big time, Phlegz' vocals have been extremely neutered I feel, and the music got a lot more sterile and generically "technical" (disjointed is a better, more fitting word) without much reason behind it. Many of the heavy slam riffs from Planisphaerium were replaced by scratchier riffs with vague chugging, and the drumming lacks the intensity of the debut, instead focusing on clinical blasts with a peppering of cool sections, here and there remarkable but never consistently impressive. Anyway, enough about that, how were they live? In a word, disappointing... and it took me some reflection to admit that to myself just now. I didn't want to think it was under-par, but it just was; from the unbearably poorly-mixed vocals (great variation, cool tone obviously, but way too over-loud, and with some goofiness that was a bit out-of-place) to the utter lack of snare drum presence (when all I can hear are your cymbals in slam, there's certainly a problem) to the lack of heaviness coming out of Guillemoth's bass, this was a mixing disaster. All that and Phlegethon's vocal mic cut out several times. I appreciated the intermissions; static and noisy waves played between each song, announcing the title of the next-to-be-played track, but honestly, this time could've been used to tweak the sound so it was, y'know, good. Anyway, they didn't have an overall bad set; highlights included "Geodesic Dome", "Tunnel of Ions" (even though the vocal phrasing was poor), "Ylem" (including an EVEN SLOWER version of that breakdown) and "Tautochrone" (one of the only songs I really dig off the new album), but the taste in my mouth was a bit bitter, I must admit. I'm sure it was impressive to many people, and Wormed are definitely a band to follow due to their unique nature and willingness to experiment with a rather-apparently-stale genre, but I'm not a huge fan of their current direction, and this show was an awkward let-down in weird ways unlike what I expected.

oh yeah I got Condemned's setlist too, fuck yeah
So, how was the show? I haven't been to a nearly-purely-slam show in a good several years (maybe my own damn fault, but whatever), but it was damn good fun, and got me stomping and reconsidering how often I write for this blog... so that's a positive. Almost every band had negatives and slightly-disappointing aspects that drew my attention away here and there, but that's life. Slam is, in a sense, very similar to life in that way. Therefore, I implore all readers of S-M to keep slamming... we will be there for and with you, possibly with somewhat lacking frequency, but always in our brutal, putrid hearts.  Cheers!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Scatorgy - Scatorgy (2013;New Standard Elite)

Scatorgy. Just let that name sink in for a bit. Hell, just look at the cover art. You would probably guess this to be some garbage porngrind or goregrind album. You would also be gravely mistaken. Scatorgy play some of the most demented, vile, and vicious brutal death metal I have ever heard. It's almost as disgusting as the cover art.

This album presents you with approximately 20 minutes of pure insanity. Think Brodequin, if they were getting sodomized by Amputated Genitals, and you've got a good idea of what you're getting here. These guys don't fuck around. Insanely fast blasts are aplenty, complimented by some insane, almost deathgrind riffs. Sprinkle in a bit of technical noodling on the guitar, some massive slams, and what sounds like a bear on the microphone, and you have Scatorgy.

Instrumentally, Scatorgy is pretty much impeccable. Tom Allott, the guitarist, shows some great technical skill, transitioning from some incredibly fast riffs to some heavy as hell slams at the drop of a dime, while throwing in some little technical flourishes that you don't hear too often in brutal death metal. James Shuster does a great job with the vocals, employing a few different styles to keep it from being monotonous. Paul Lead does a good job on bass, but doesn't really stand out. Although I would say that's more of a problem with the mixing than his playing. And then we have the drummer, Tom Walker, who is quite possibly one of the fastest drummers I have ever heard. He blasts like a man possessed, but what's most impressive about his drumming is the subtle little nuances he adds in with his symbol work. That, and the goddamn Short Bus Pile Up styled snare production, which only adds to the sound they're going for.

There are some downsides to this record though. For one, the mixing job, while decent, leaves a little to be desired when it comes to the low end. It's almost impossible to hear the bass, which detracts from the overall heaviness. The biggest problem though is how everything seems to run together. There aren't many memorable moments to be had on this album. Even after listening to it ten, twenty, even thirty times, I'm hard pressed to remember any singular moment. I also would've liked a little bit of breathing room, but seeing how it's only a 20 minute album, it's not that big of an issue.

Overall, this is a pretty damn good record. It's definitely catered towards fans of Brodequin, Liturgy, Orchidectomy, and their ilk. If you're looking for an album to ruthlessly beat you into submission repeatedly, look no further.