Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cenotaph - Putrescent Infectious Rabidity (Sevared Records; 2010)

Good death metal songwriting, for me, is more felt than heard. I don't sit there and think, "that riff really worked there". Rather I get the feeling that the artist is directing me exactly where they want me. I get the feeling that I am being carried by the artist to the place I should go, which for me goes a level beyond mere entertainment. As usual my writing skills and the English language are not quite capable of describing exactly how I feel, and I don't know if anyone experiences music in this way, but it's the best I can do. I mention all this because Cenotaph's new album Putrescent Infectious Rabidity gives me that exact feeling.

A little background first. Cenotaph are a veteran band and undeniably Turkey's premier brutal death metal export. They have been around since 1994 and this is their fifth full length. In all honesty I have only heard the most recent three, and Andy tells me the first two weren't that good. Starting with Pseudo Verminal Cadaverium though, Cenotaph got really good. Their style is atmospheric, slamming, and grindy. Think of an atmospheric Malignancy or a grindier Septycal Gorge.

Putrescent Infectious Rabidity gets everything it possibly can out Cenotaph's unique style. Extremely fast, technically masterful sections effortlessly give way to plodding chugs and deep, slow slams. This band really knows how to make this kind of music work, because everything feels right. The fast, grinding sections are very interesting and they dump you under a slam right before they get boring as those kind of riffs tend to do. Then, when the slam is over, they pick you right back up again. Most of the time I do something else while I listen to music, but this is an album that I can just listen to and enjoy without any distractions. It's that good.

Special mention should be made of the excellent musicianship on this album, especially Defeated Sanity's Lille Gruber, who session-drummed on this record. There are some extremely fast technical sections on this album, and Gruber more than keeps up with them.

After over a decade and half Cenotaph are not declining in any way. This should be a must buy album and will be a contender with the new Defeated Sanity for this year's number one album.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Show Review: Malignancy at the Maryland Deathfest

May 28th-30th the Slam-Minded team attended the eighth annual Maryland Deathfest in Baltimore, Maryland. MDF is the best extreme metal festival in North America bar none, and I hope at last a few of our readers got to attend. There were tons of good bands, but the one most pertinent to this blog was Malignancy, who played Friday evening. Personally I'd prefer a couple more brutal death bands at the fest, but I understand that bands like Autopsy and Pestilence will draw a bigger crowd.

If there could only be one brutal band, Malignancy was not bad choice. They play a very dynamic style with a lot of different elements. If someone described them as slamming brutal technical deathgrind they would not be wrong. They play a very unique style that incorporates slams, but employs only at the perfect time, surrounding them with grinding tech riffs. After some initial banter from the vocalist, the band launched into their brand of fast, technical and brutal death metal. One might expect a band this fast and technical to experience a drop off in live play, but that was definitely not the case here. Everyone sounded really good and, unlike some of the other bands at the fest, all of the instruments were very clear. This was really fun stuff and it was a joy to watch a veteran band pull off some impressive feats of musicianship.

The set list ranged throughout their discography, and due to the short length of most of their songs we got to hear quite a few. I'm most familiar with Malignancy's 2007 full length Inhuman Grotesqueries so I was most excited about those tracks. "Neglected Rejection" sounded amazing live. They also played a couple new tracks off their upcoming album. Not sure when that's coming out, but the tracks sounded excellent. No real change in the formula, but that's fine when the formula is already varied and unique. I will certainly be purchasing the album when it appears.

A special mention also has to be made for Danny's stage banter, which was surprisingly funny. Most metal bands just stay super grim or play up the "woo beer!" angle when they're on stage, so it was enjoyable to see someone with some charisma.

Final thoughts, Malignancy were great, Maryland Deathfest was awesome. Do not miss either if you can help it!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Colonize The Rotting - Composting The Masticated (Sevared Records; 2010)

Colonize The Rotting are a newcomer in the realm of Cali-slam/brutal DM, and thus it is probably very easy to lump them in with the assorted styles of Californian blasting technical weird brutal stuff coming out these days. All the hallmarks of this style are here: really ridiculous chops from every single band member, about half a million bucks spent on the production to get everything perfect and clinical sounding, involved songwriting that seems almost ad-libbed...yet, of course, there are the utter pitfalls of this style which come with the territory which include sounding pretty much soulless, overly wanky and almost entirely uninteresting.

Sound like a brutal review? Well, yeah, so far. But really, I've only described the scene this band fits into, and not necessarily the band themselves. Now, since I haven't heard their previous demo, I can really only judge Colonize The Rotting on this one EP. Barrett told me that this was excellent, and I know some people (whose taste I don't necessarily care for, but still) who like this band. So, I figured, why not drop the money and pick it up, it's the least I can do for one of the best (and most hard-working) labels in slam/brutal DM, and I can even review it. I put it on in the hotel room at MDF VIII last weekend and I immediately knew the band was Californian due to all of the aspects I explained above. Pretty much everything on this EP is a total blur of "death metal" that is nearly entirely featureless, right down to the cookie-cutter gurgling vocals, acrobatic guitar leads and incredibly frantic drumming. Speaking of that, the drummer is also the vocalist, which is sort of cool until you realize that it really isn't, and that this is almost entirely rhythmic music as most slam is, and therefore the vocals follow set patterns defined pretty much wholly by the drums and bass, which, while frantic as I stated before, are very easy to reconcile technically. Anyway, who really cares about the technical part of this? This is Cali slam and I need to discuss other relevant aspects as to why it is not really anything particularly good.

Positive aspects of this include a really, really good slam-into-tremolo-variation-of-same-slam on "Purulent Ejaculation", and quite a few good solos that would sound a lot better if they were fit into the music in a way that doesn't sound like they were thrown in after the fact. The last song is 8 minutes long but it doesn't really go anywhere that is particularly interesting. It sounds like music made by musicians, and not music made by fucked up people who are actually brutal in any way, shape or form. Clinical. Deprived of brutality. And those are the positives, mind you.

Here are some negatives...actually, there's really only ONE that is a major contention, but it's such a commonly-leveled criticism nowadays in the scene that it sticks out like a sore thumb: this band really likes to not write cohesive songs. In fact, they pretty much make it a point to draw out their tracks to lengths that don't make any sense. A track should be an inclusive delineation on a CD onto which a written song is "tracked". This track should evolve within its own margins until it "ends", that is to say, until the song cannot go anywhere any longer and, if pushed further, would cease to be a). good and/or b). the same track. Colonize The Rotting, along with a lot of shit coming from California (aside from Gortuary and I guess Condemned, even though I'm not a fan of them) should probably try understanding this concept. There are 6-8 minute songs on this EP that don't deserve to be extended this much at all. A lot of fat could be hacked, a lot of ideas could be extrapolated into separate songs, but it seems like the boys in this band are content with writing a bunch of disparate sections, copying and pasting them end to end, and calling them "tracks". Nah. Doesn't fly with me. Contrast this with my review earlier today of Short Bus Pile Up. Surprise, they're East Coast. They write songs that are too short, that need some extra fat, something extra in the songwriting department which would allow their songs to challenge the listener while entertaining them. This band? They challenge the listener too much, and in the process, end up haranguing them with endless obtuse sections of gutturalslamguitarsoloblastwank. It isn't the best choice, but California doesn't give a shit. Bands from there will keep writing stuff like this whether I like it or not, obviously.

Does that mean I have to like it, though? Hell no. Do I hate this? No, not at all. It's kind of fun, it has a very Flesh Consumed meets Pathology vibe that I don't think is unlikeable at all. However, it's fucking Cali-slam, and until this state/section of the country stops putting out irritating, over-produced, overwrought music like this, I won't stop complaining about it. I mean, something is fucking wrong when your "EP" is over 35 minutes in a genre where a shitload of excellent bands can write a 25 minute full-length with more content and 10 minutes less running time to irritate the listener with.

However, if you like ANYTHING COMING FROM CALIFORNIA AT ALL, you'll probably fucking dig the shit out of this. It's fun, but it's unfortunate that they had some come at a time when I could make an ultimate example out of them. That being said, Barrett thinks they're one of the best bands he's heard lately, so go ahead and buy this and support Sevared anyway. I did, and I only marginally regret it!

Short Bus Pile Up - Repulsive Display of Human Upholstery (Sevared Records; 2010)

Tyler and co. are no strangers to this blog. I first reviewed their demo in September of last year and they responded favorably to my criticism, which basically ended up being "fuck off with the samples and learn to write more in-depth, extended songs; however, your snare tone and slams are both impeccable". Now that I finally have this album in my hands after last weekend's excellent MDF VIII, I can finally air my new criticisms about SBPU.


Just kidding, I don't have much to complain about. This is fucking badass. They took my advice on the snare tone ("if you guys change the snare tone I'll be really angry with you.") and didn't touch it at all, as Tyler let me in on the fact that drummer Dave Dement's snare tone is his pride and joy. It sounds distinctly Colombian (pingy, steely, and fucking awesome), yet is used in a distinctly TXDM slam way; there isn't much in the way of all out blastbeat sections here but there are plenty of one-handed snare rolls. SBPU doesn't really extend their songwriting prowess beyond a certain level here (that level being "solid"), but what is present is enough to leave the listener begging for more, which is essentially a very good quality of a debut album. What good is it if a band totally kicks your ass with their first album? What do you have to look forward to of theirs in the future? Most likely that's just a setup for the critical failure of the "sophomore album", so I'm glad that they decided to try their hands at slightly longer songs for the full-length, but still left enough grey area to develop on the next one.

Elliott and Ryan both know how to write fucking excellent sections of songs, replete with excellent, charging slams and slower breakdown sections. In this sense, a lot of the songwriting is very Abominable Putridity; there are pretty much zero concessions for anything non-slamming on here, which makes me happy. Tyler also proves that he is a competent guitarist, as he performed extra guitar on every track here. His vocals are guttural yet understandable, and remain as such from their surprisingly-great demo from last year. "Stench of Her Burning Flesh" is a new song that features a very awesome goregrind/pornogrind mid-section which is also mildly present on a few other songs including the first, "Ball-Peen Beating". I greatly welcome this influence and think it's really an interesting one to work with; pornogrind kind of stuff generally operates in its own limited sphere, because it's extremely limited and ridiculous, and it's kind of funny and interesting to see a total Rompeprop section in a slam song. The end of this song includes some screaming which sounds distinctly like The Locust, which sort of sucks and sounds silly in a not-so-good way, but I'm sure some people will appreciate it, and it's kind of an isolated incident, so no big deal.

"Fecal Matters" is once again a great song but way too short, and it feels like they could do a lot more to draw it out with its strong slamming riffs and the excellent production on display here. I suppose that the integrity of the original songs was intended to remain the same, so I can't really fault that, but I hope the next album has more NEW songs, and that said new songs display more thought regarding how to proceed after the lyrics are exhausted or after the one or two slams present in the song are utilized to the fullest extent.

So essentially the biggest criticism I can level against this band is that they need to learn to challenge themselves more in regards to songwriting and not just take the extreme basic way out of ending songs short due to worry that they won't sound good in a longer form. Take some chances and develop your music, guys. It's fucking excellent how it is, regardless. The snare is probably the best in modern slam (not even a little bit joking), the slams are incredibly heavy, groovy and destructive, and the vocals are solid as hell. There just needs to exist some amount of effort put into tying these things together longer for a minute or two. A few songs hint at this but not much really comes of it. The band clearly knows how to kick major ass, but I wish it was a slightly longer, challenging ass-kicking. Perhaps I'm wishing too much out of this band? Who knows. Regardless, if you want a pretty fucking awesome debut by a band that only has potential to get more awesome, get this ASAP.

Oh, and the title track gets kind of disturbing about halfway through. I'm sad that the title of the album has less to do with the entire album than I wish, because it's a cool cover and title which Cephalotripsy once had claim to and lost for a similar reason.