Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bodysnatch - Insights of a Rotten Theatre (2011; Pathologically Explicit Recordings)

Bodysnatch are a fairly underground band from Switzerland currently signed to PathEx Records, known for renowned releases by bands like Cumbeast, Kraanium and Antraks. Boasting Soils of Fate/MP5k (R.I.P.?) drummer Fredrik Widigs on the kit on this album, a sick dual vocal assault by two full-time vocalists and some really cool melodic moments and leads, this was pretty much destined to be an underground/sleeper hit for 2011. The album is also really, really long for slam. You barely see slam albums go over the 30 minute mark, so my response to first hearing "Inception of Malicious Pregnancy" was "wow, this is really 7 minutes long?" but that feeling quickly waned as I realized how well each song is created and how painstakingly they all seem to be constructed. The album is, truly, insanely long (very near to an hour total, over 10 tracks) but none of the songs really feel like they lag or try to carry too much weight. In fact, "Shotgun Therapy" which is a whopping 7-and-a-quarter minutes, features three distinct, equally enjoyable sections that run the gamut from vocal highlights to awesome groove riffs.

And that's basically where this album shines. Amongst the tight, awesome drumming, the interesting little slap bass pops and the thugged-out rapping vocals (really well-done; I found myself laughing a bit at some parts), this album is really just about super riffing. It starts chuggy with a forward-pushing beat that relents very little, and eventually settles into its own little groove. There are very few breakdowns on this album that don't make me want to headbang involuntarily (even in the car which, while dangerous and possibly even fatal, makes it even more awesome actually). It's the combination of super-simple pinpoint drumming and totally rifftastic slamming that makes this album, as a whole, stand out.

There are little things that just work, though, as well. The little solo section in "Resurrected Pugnacity Resists All Logic" (awesome song title, as well) is fun, a good break from utter brutality, and fits very well in the song with a cool rhythmic buildup underneath before collapsing into a cool chugging, off-time slam with a djent-like drum section. Bass pops make for cute diversions as well, and the bass is heavy as all fuck on this album, but the guitar tone is sometimes a bit too weak for what they seem to be trying to achieve. There are riffs that feel they could use a bit more tone behind them, either because the triggered kick drum drowns out the damped slam riff tones or because they're just written weirdly, but these are few and far between overall, which is a relief.

One other technical thing on this album keeps it from being absolutely excellent, however. Fucking fret noise! This unfortunately sucks, and it's so obvious and pervasive during a lot of the slower, more funeral-esque slam sections (of which there actually are quite a few...points for those anyway!) that it just sounds totally bothersome and distracting. It's like when you hear a singer breathe between vocal lines, just messy little things that take me out of the experience and seem like they could be easily fixed. Some may argue that this adds a "rough" or "raw" edge to this album, but I really don't think they are going for that sort of sound; it definitely seems like it's supposed to be hi-fi and modern as hell.

The lead/solo thing in "Inception of Malicious Pregnancy" reminds me heavily of Fleshless, to the extent that, after several listens back to back on the way to and from work for about a week, I basically decided that this sounds like Soils of Fate, Dying Fetus, Fleshless and old Aborted having a kid and smashing all their songs into mega-songs that just go weird, absurdly developed places over their entirety. Throw in a bit of Saprogenic for good measure, and it's really just demented stuff, and great fun. Funeral slams are, like I said, in surprising abundance, though most are of the "introduced as completely silly slow breakdown" kind and not the "breakdown that starts normal speed and gets slower" type. That's cool; it sort of fits Bodysnatch's style a little more to have sections that are just coarsely delineated from the rest of the song but which eventually seem to snake back and relate to earlier themes or rhythms, given their song lengths. I keep coming back to that, but it seriously is a big point of contention to a lot of people, and something that certainly becomes a divisive, love-or-hate situation among many fans of this genre. A lot of people believe slam bands should come in, destroy your ears as brutally, quickly and/or loudly as possibly, and get the hell out so the next thing on the menu can be voraciously consumed. I don't think Bodysnatch is about that. They seem to, on this album anyway, be about devising ear-worm, catchy moments placed manipulatively in long sections of catchy riffs so that one has to keep rediscovering how songs unfold to truly "get" them.

It's pretty brilliant and high-brow actually. While this isn't cerebral music by any stretch of the imagination, it's surprisingly intelligent and a little bit silly. Overall, it's consistently high-quality and enjoyable brutal death metal with a focus on gut-punching slam breakdowns and charging old-school riffs that shouldn't disappoint a single person into this type of music. Since Thanksgiving begins in America in a few minutes, I'd like to personally declare my sincere thanks to cool bands like this the world over that make brutal, interesting and engaging music that just kicks ass. We salute you.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Condemned - Realms of the Ungodly (2011; Unique Leader Records)

It's well known that Condemned's first offering was fairly well-received by the slam world. To many people, it was an "all-star" release that typified a lot of what brutal death metal is (or was 4 years, that seems like a long time ago, shit), and it was distributed by a fairly well-to-do label that has good promotion in the brutal world. I'm here to state my opinion on that album straight out of the gate so that you might be able to glean a bit more from my review on their new album today; I thought Desecrate the Vile kind of sucked. It had piss-poor, weak production with no bite to it, the riffs faded in and out really quickly, the songs were unfocused, under-developed and short and the last track was one of those annoying "really long outro that we all wish was 11 minutes of a single slam riff repeated" things. This is totally different. This is good. Really good.

Even though the beginning of the album is a little cheesy with the opening elucidation of the first real song being more than a bit silly, the band quickly follows that up with various subtly-epic riffs that snake between headphones, developing into errant blastbeat passages tied together by collapsing structures formed of vague slam riffs. Forrest of Cephalotripsy is a real beast on this. We all know and love Lille Gruber of Defeated Sanity fame, right? Well, Forrest really gives it his all during the majority of this album, and his technique sometimes comes close to that blastmaster, especially during slower breakdown sections. Otherwise, he blasts in true Colombian fashion, or maybe sometimes like Putridity's drummer. A bass bomb opens up the first real slam breakdown of the album at the end of "Ere the Dark Sovereign", with its really weird abstract riffs between slams. This kind of sets the mood for the whole album; somewhat catchy, weird epic/melodic riffs blended almost seamlessly with slams that bludgeon faces flat.

The band just steps everything up 500% on this album; even if you liked the previous album, you'll probably like this even more given how much better it sounds, plays and formulates itself. It really feels like the album is unfolding in front of you, not just being played by some guys from California. The atmosphere is really cool, as well. Subtle things like the "swarm of angry bees/locusts/wasps" effect preceding the breakdown-into-verse of "Baptismal Incineration..." are highly, highly welcomed and set the band apart from their peers on this one. Splayed and nicely sequenced riffwork opens up the varied breakdown styles, which have roots in slams but which tend to deviate over their own courses into crazy variations on the originally-presented ideas. "Catharsis..." sounds a bit like a "single" from this album, with its wild, flailing aplomb and bombastic riff structuring, bass bomb-into-pinch harmonic rumbling breakdown and varied songwriting styles. The shortness of this track works better for it than most, if not all, of the short tracks on Desecrate the Vile worked in context of that album. It's ended by a creepy, sudden ambient heartbeat collaboration that leads perfectly into the next slab of utter brutality.

The title track is seriously awesome; it's got it all; insane riffy intro, epic progression that clobbers the listener with insane twists and turns and vocals that actually fit rather than how they felt misplaced to me on Desecrate. Angel still does his fair share of silly shit (you know what I'm talking about and you're probably replaying it in your head as I speak), but the little touches of epic reverb during the slam sections are that much more effective here. Also, the solo is a nice touch and flows surprisingly well. If anything, this album could use more cool solos! Another atmospheric outro and we've hit the second "half" of a really, really solid album that has kicked my ass every single time I've listened to it so far, leaving me with more things to discover on it rather than mere satiation.

"Forged within Lecherous Offerings" offers more in under 3 minutes than many lesser slam bands offer in a whole album; there's a progression into an epic riff that pretty much should never have been written but was (check out how the song develops after :43 onwards and be confused about how exactly they got to where they went there; it's seriously wacky). Later in the song there's some weird stuff (kinda major key melodic stuff intro the outro?) but it closes powerfully and opens into the next few songs that recite key points I've already gone over in this review; kind of unworthy of going over again, though there are some cool "classic blasts" and various riff-salad things going on that are impressive on both a technical and songwriting level.

The real thing of interest here is the almost 6-minute final song, "Submerged unto Phlegethon" which really just kicks major ass in almost every foreseeable way. It has a funeral slam, so of course it's going to top my list in that sense. There's a really cool breakdown preceding it, too; some kind of crazy staccato (thanks Logan for the good terminology here!) riffing that leads straight to a sinister, ever-slowing slam. Other than that there are vocal highlights during crazy tremolo-into-slam sections, insane drum fills that really just rule in every conceivable way and an extended brutal outro that practically devours its competition whole, and, yet...the ending is one of rebirth. It just kind of...stops. There's nothing else. Nothing but an endless silence within which we wait for their next offering with nothing but baited breath.

I think this album has all the makings of a classic brutal death album for the future. It is raw and unforgiving, callous and oppressive, well-crafted and well-thought-out, and yet it has its own barbarity mingling with a professionalism that is belied by the rough-shod edges it seems to parade proudly. As with most awesome slam, it is a paradox that we cheer on and celebrate loudly; the ability to present something so incalculably insipid in such a potent and overpowering way that it defies all qualification. You probably owe it to yourself to listen to this right now.