Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ancient Necropsy - Sanctuary Beyond the Infinite (2011; Nice To Eat You Records)

One-man Colombian brutal death stalwart Ivan Jaramillo aka Ancient Necropsy is back once again with his 4th album of unique, aurally-punishing and somewhat challenging deathgrind with experimental touches at times. Continuing in the tradition of having ridiculous cover art, SBTI's art features a menagerie of clusterfucked textures, distorted architecture and statuettes all preparing us for a mythological romp in the realm of brutality. The first song is a powerful, evocative and interesting intro piece featuring well-done cosmic sounding effects and acoustic guitar. "Limited Golden Keys to the Paradise" blasts off with a strange vocal turn for Ivan; slightly more understandable death grunts are emitted forth in rhythmic turn. The riffing is tight but paradoxically loose, and here begins one of my main issues with this. AN is basically known for writing tightly-wound but seemingly entropic, compact songs that build up and unravel in various ways throughout their usually short existence. On this album, however, it feels a bit more like Ivan is picking out and throwing away riffs without much forethought, and it makes the songs suffer for it, with each feeling like a strange combination of cool and uninteresting sections tied in by little guitar flourishes instead of superior songwriting.

It is undeniable that Ivan is a great composer, but a lot of these particular compositions are a little more experimental for him. The production also doesn't help the proceedings much; it picks up where Apocalyptic Empire left off with a hollow, mid-heavy tone that is biased towards clarity instead of brutality, but it doesn't at all slouch in terms of extremity. One thing that does, however, would be the drumming. It sounds like Ivan did the drums all himself, as Beto's ridiculous blasting seems to be less-than-omnipresent, a somewhat disappointing turn as I was getting used to his insanity in both this and other Colombian projects. Some slam breaks are really powerful and utilize this new drum sound for the better, but they seem to be forgotten about rather quickly and seem more like afterthoughts. I'm disappointed by this fact, but I can look past it because of the excellent riffing. The track "Journey Inside Of...", for example, is a really great cut of death metal sounding a bit like a rougher Decrepit Birth with a more deliberate direction instead of deciding to make like the Californians and toss out worthy sections for wankery. This is also one of the songs where the rhythm riffing is strong and doesn't feel disjointed. In the past, it's been basically an automatic pass for Ivan when he writes riffs that have no rhythmic interplay with the direction of the song, but on here some of them feel a bit too much like phoned in performances. Most songs also feel flat because of the aforementioned production. While the performances of every instrument are basically stellar and nearly incomparable, especially in South American brutality, it still feels like the whole package is a demo album that could use more finesse and work to match the attention to detail that is clearly put into the riffs.

I think I'm of the opinion that Deformed King's Mummification was Ivan's best work to date. That album's coy playfulness and seemingly irreverent disregard for conventional songwriting and album flow is practically unmatched in this genre of music. This album seems to want to showcase maturity, but feels like a step back because it also feels a lot of the time like attention was erroneously put into bizarre aspects. I still think I would rate it higher than Apocalyptic Empire, which was somewhat unimpressive to me despite being technically savvy. The second half of the album seems to be markedly superior, with the exquisite "Altar of Fire" and "The Gate Keeper of the Universe" being melodic moshers with excellent time-keeping and the quick, AN-patented hurry to them, which makes it sound like Ivan times himself on each track. "Revelations" sounds like The Chasm if they cared less about atmosphere and more about rushing forward with maniacal aplomb, thought its mid section is a plaintive and emotive atmospheric section that extends Ivan's reach beyond the realm of anything he's previously done. At the same time, though, it sometimes ceases to really be "brutal" shouldn't really care about that.

On its own terms, this album is a fuck you to stagnation but at the same time kind of keeps some trademark AN-isms intact, which is sometimes annoying and sometimes charming. It might even net him some new fans, but it isn't a new masterpiece in my opinion; more work must be done to streamline the songwriting and get it to the next level now that he's discovered his ability to be epic for a whole song rather than 10 second sections.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hideous Deformity - Defoulment of Human Purity (2010; Sevared Records)

At long last Hideous Deformity's first album is being reviewed on Slam-Minded. We talked about this band way back in October 2007 (!) when we started this blog. The album was seemingly delayed forever, and then when it did finally come out, I had forgotten and didn't notice. According to metal-archives Defoulment of Human Purity has been out nearly a year now, and I am (finally) getting around to reviewing it.

My first reaction on hearing this album was that this is how California brutal death metal is supposed to sound. Yes, I know Hideous Deformity are from Norway, but this album sounds a lot like the California style. It has a perfect marriage of technicality and brutality. Technicality and brutality are like two friends that help each other out when they need it. Too many bands think that technicality is brutality, and this leads to confusion. Hideous Deformity do not operate under this faulty logic, and so can use the two "friends" to full effect.

A great thing about Defoulment of Human Purity (aside: I really enjoy writing sentences that sounds ridiculous out of context) is that it all sounds so... effortless. Brutal death metal can be a taxing genre to listen to, especially its more technical incarnations, but Hideous Deformity do a very good job making their music breathe. This makes it all the more punishing, as you get drawn in and then destroyed by riff after riff. There's an old school quality about this. Not in how the music sounds, but in the detailed attention the band has given to each riff. I think this old school approach is also evident in the inclusion of solos (a personal favorite of mine).

This is a really good album, and I feel terrible that I missed it last year. For all of you who forgot about or abandoned Hideous Deformity, let me assure you the wait was worth it.