Thursday, January 8, 2015

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...)

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