Sunday, September 18, 2011

3rd World vs. 1st World: A compariSlam (PATHOLOGY vs. FLESHTORTURE)

Greetings fellow slam death fans and welcome to another one-off weird article that I decided to do because fuck the rules. Today I am writing to compare the (in)famous Pathology's new album with FleshTorture's new album, hopefully discerning some things about the current state of slam in the meantime.

Everyone knows who Pathology are; they've gone from a two-piece splinter project of a Cattle Decapitation dude and a Locust member to what they are now, a 5-piece with hardcore band I Declare War's ex-vocalist Jon Huber gripping the mic and vomiting pure pestilence throughout the entirety of the album. Practically no-one, however, knows who FleshTorture are. Well then, allow me to refresh your memory. Unless you've been following this blog in an extremely zealous fashion since its inception, you probably missed out on a fringe article we wrote 4 years ago titled Nicaragua: Upcoming Slam Scene Report. This article (also written by yours truly) professed FleshTorture as a band sometimes doing "raw and almost Mexican sounding blast-slam-death", though at the time they suffered from the guitars being mixed too quietly and the vocalist being too loud. Well, they've just released their second full-length album (on a respected underground label, to boot; Brute! Productions from Thailand) since that time and seem to have improved on some things, while still leaving themselves open to constructive criticism.

One thing's for sure, though; it's sick as fuck! I ordered it as soon as I saw that Sevared had it in stock (and hopefully he acquires more soon, because everyone reading this blog should buy him out of it, it's great...but we'll get to that soon), and then, last night, I bought Pathology's new album and then had a great idea that leads me to this: how are the 1st and 3rd world slam scenes, sounds and sights different, and how do they compare? For a point of reference for FleshTorture, let's look back to countrymen Gorepoflesh's insanely fucking good debut and think about what made that good. It's well-written, terrifying, barbaric and has production befitting its themes and moods; that is, whatever mood is present in a fucked-up snuffhouse full of smoldering corpses drowned in acid and resold to necrophiliacs on the black market.

FleshTorture doesn't quite stack up any which way to that, but their sophomore album shows no signs of tiring or slowing down, and for that they must be lauded. It delivers equal parts blast and chug with a focus on odd, modular riffs that don't stay in place long, and a penchant for fast blasting that reminds of Colombian bands like Mindly Rotten, Ancient Necropsy et al. The guitar production is truly out-of-this-world (not always in a good way); it sounds like a black metal band trying to play slam; the chugs are all off-centered, burned-out and fuzzy, with a ton of interesting grooves to be had. However, it's usually really good stuff that just pummels you and makes you think a bit. There are sections reminding of equal parts Saprogenic and Devourment, their slow breakdowns developing into power chord frenzies with feral precision. The vocals are powerful; demonic grunts and wet slurs that, while still too loud (some things never change, eh?), never detract from the songwriting or overall style of what's going on. Some songs have terrible/amazing samples that, while at first amusing, will annoy the shit out of you if you want to closely inspect how the band strings the album together. There's a deftness to this that is difficult to find in a lot of modern slam, and I think it's a strength of theirs; they manage to sound simultaneously like they have no fucking clue what they're doing, yet they clearly are writing songs to pander to fans of this music; it's a bit like the first album of the aforementioned Mindly Rotten in that way. You'll want this in your collection if you like raw, sullied slam that delves into the deepest psychological depths of brutality without itself becoming depraved (Gorepoflesh, however, seemed to have given no fucks about that whole thing...that album scares the shit out of me, honestly). It's kickass, grinding slam that never sits still and offers up brutal fun for everyone, despite its production mishaps and weirdly toned guitars.

So how does it compare to the most well-produced, high-quality, gloss-and-sheen slam out of America these days? It stacks up well, and there are several amusing parallels to draw. Pathology's album is all loud, compressed slam with minor breaks for solos, djent/muted chugs (what the fuck is that mid-album instrumental guys) and very, very minor deathcore touches (which apparently lead everyone to label this 'deathcore'....fuck off if you don't think this is brutal death metal). It opens with a cavernous slam that takes no prisoners, and continues with a cool solo section that eviscerates most modern American competition. Some of the songs, however, are poorly written and deviate randomly from main ideas (with a few outliers, such as "Opposing Globalization" which, while terribly titled and annoyingly egoistic/pretentious lyrically, is seriously awesome as fuck), ending songs in places that literally don't make sense at all. This is jarring and a bit ridiculous when compared to the songs that are awesome, because it's like they had a lot of material and threw it around randomly. It makes the pacing awkward, but it's sometimes compelling just because of the jarring nature of how the album "flows". Jon Huber makes his debut on the mic here and, while he isn't a bad vocalist, he's fucking all over the place in terms of style, and a lot of the time, the style changes don't make sense in context. For instance, he'll sometimes go from inhale to gurgle-exhale in one breakdown without space between the lines, and it sounds lame and forced. The album is finely crafted and well-tuned, but it's a major sufferer of compression, with everything competing for limited headspace and doing so in spectacularly awkward fashion. Even the acoustic outro is loud as fuck for no discernible reason, and there's practically no subtlety to the whole affair. I realize slam isn't supposed to be anything less than in-your-face brutal, but it's just a personal gripe.

That being said, this is a strong album and probably contender for their best album, because of its flaws and the humanness of it. It is direct, suffocating in its brutality and most of the songs are pieced together from the zombified flesh of so many influences that you can practically hear Majewski, Mullen and Corpsegrinder in the most intense sections. However, even the last album was plagued with these negatives in songwriting, production and form. Can I really fault them for just doing what they want, though? No, not really. It's that they're doing what they want that bothers me, to some extent, but I can't say that's good or bad. In this way, the gap between first and third world slam isn't so large as I'd imagined...we're all just people, some of whom are trying to write insanely brutal music. FleshTorture probably don't have the means to record this album, but their music evolves because of it; the adversity of having poor studio equipment and a probable "practice space" studio is a challenge to them, and because of this adversity, they are writing insanely brutal music within constraints placed upon them. They probably could not be happier with this album in some ways. Regardless of the issues I have with both albums here, they are both great works, representing the music that hits us where it counts, and hits us repeatedly...hard, fast, loud. Buy both of these albums; they are exemplary of what we all stand for in this game.