Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Death Metal Tuesday - Butchered at Birth (1991)


In honor of Halloween, I thought I'd do one of the classics for DMT, but I didn't want to pick a personal favorite. Cannibal Corpse are, of course, American death metal legends. Since 1990, they have not stopped churning out releases that remain loyal to the genre. At this point, you can probably divide their career into 3 phases. The first phase is the Chris Barnes on vocals era - the first four albums. This is classic corpse. 

Cannibal Corpse's 1992 album Tomb of the Mutilated, has always been my favorite of theirs. The previous year's Butchered at Birth is somewhat more difficult for me. The snare drum has always bothered me - it's too loud and doesn't sit well in the mix. It hurts the album as a whole. I realize this seems like nitpicking, but it really distracts me from the rest of the music and becomes all I hear. If I can manage to set that aside, there's actually some great tracks here. Rancid Amputation and Gutted are great. Covered with Sores is even better - probably the best song on here. The riffs make or break it for me, thus Living Dissection and Under the Rotted Flesh feel like uninspired filler. 

Barnes is nice and guttural on this record, though not as ghoulish as he is on the next album, it's a nice throaty bark. Rusay and Owens are no longer with the band, but their interplay is what gave early Corpse their sound. The rhythm section is plenty tight, but god damn that snare is too loud, particularly on those blast-beats. 

Butchered at Birth is an inconsistent album on many points, but it does depart completely from the debut's loose thrash connections, and in that, it feels like a pure death metal album. The song writing would really find its place on the next album, on Butchered, Cannibal is still finding their way. And turn the damn snare down. 2.5 out 5. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Death Metal Tuesday - Deflorate (2009)


Michigan's The Black Dahlia Murder have been a prolific new school death metal act since 2003's awesome Unhallowed album. Deflorate is their fourth full length album in 6 years. TBDM play frantic, Gothomburg-style death metal - very melodic and usually in that harmonic minor mode where it sounds ever so slightly gothic. 

A big part of their sound is Trevor Strnad's dual vocals - one witch-style, and one guttural. I prefer his lower voice, and he thankfully uses it more on this album than he did on the previous one. This style of death metal is very dependent on the guitars so Eschbach and Knight need to deliver, and for the most part, they do. 

What made Unhallowed so successful, was that it was stocked with $1000 riffs. Their next 2 albums came off as rather uninspired and somewhat redundant. Deflorate improves on this by stepping up the quality of the writing. There is still some moments where it feels like the same thing over and over, and the main reason for that is the unrelenting breakneck tempo of everything. It's either blast-beats or assault-grade double-bass on the drums. Granted, it's a death metal staple, but they could stand with a little variation once in awhile. 

TBDM are consistently competent and effective in their strangely European style of death metal. Deflorate does not match the strength of their debut, but it improves on what I felt were two mediocre releases in between. It gets a 3 out of 5.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Death Metal Tuesday - Epitaph (2004)


Germany's Necrophagist started as a one man project for Muhammed Suicmez. Presently, they still have but two albums: 1999's The Onset of Putrefaction and 2004's Epitaph which has a full band behind it. The words "Tech Death" were created for this band. They are ridiculously complex at times and for that reason, they have a fair amount of haters out there. 

The important difference between Epitaph and a good majority of tech death albums is songwriting. These are intricate tunes, but they are stuffed with cool riffs and musical tricks. It doesn't sound like they're just showing off, they're playing cool tunes with a purpose. The guitars are absolutely impressive - disjointed phrases and broken melodies that somehow come together. These guys shred, and I mean, shred. The bass is pretty damn impressive too. 

After two underwhelming tracks, Ignominious and Pale destroys everything. It is an amazing track with a sudden tempo change at the end that just blows me away every time. The title track, Seven, and Symbiotic in Theory are all stellar tracks. This is a fun album for me to dissect - there is so much going on, and most of it is simply kick ass. The only downside is that the vocals are rather boring - very monotonous and lazy. It's as if they wore themselves out writing the music and just said: "Oh yeah, it needs vocals. I'll do something real quick."

Almost 10 years after the release of Epitaph, and still no new Necrophagist album. It's become kind of a running joke with fans that there will be a new one any day now. At any rate, this is an incredible album and fans of technically impressive and well written metal should find something to get stoked on here. It gets a 4.5 out of 5. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Death Metal Tuesday - Annihilation of the Wicked (2006)


Since the late 1990's, South Carolina's Nile have been the first name in brutal, technical, Ancient Egyptian-themed death metal. Their fourth album, Annihilation of the Wicked, finds a band who is very comfortable with their particular niche in the death metal scene. Imagine New York style death metal from the nineties, cranked up a notch, and painted with Egyptian or Heptatonic scale melodies, and you have Nile's basic approach. 

Nile have a very distinct sound, which is part of the reason why they got so popular so quickly, they were something new. Their approach is somewhat limiting however as it more or less commits them to one musical scale. By this fourth album, it's starting to sound a little redundant. The other part of their appeal is the sheer athleticism behind the kit. George Kollias runs a marathon on the double-bassdrum; the dude has some serious endurance. The vocals are fairly standard, there are 3 guys listed for vocals, and whoever does the ultra-lows is clearly the coolest. The guitars are insane. The leads are turbo-charged and acrobatic. These guys do not take it easy on themselves, it's as if they were being paid per-note. 

The end result is that Nile is stimulation overload. They are all out, almost all of the time. Their earlier albums had quite a few ambient instrumental sections which mixed it up a bit, but Annihilation of Wicked feels like an endurance test. This music is easier to respect than enjoy. Again, the marathon metaphor applies: I can respect someone for being able to run one, but I don't necessarily want to watch them do it. Nile's Annihilation of the Wicked gets a 2.5 out of 5. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Death Metal Tuesday - Humanure (2004)

This month I'm going to jump ahead in time and cover some second and third wave stuff. It gets a little complicated, as what is considered legitimate death metal gets debatable and genre definitions as a whole have become ridiculously specific. There is technical death metal, brutal death metal, progressive death metal, melodic death metal, metalcore... I'm not going to over think it. We'll just cover a few more modern releases this month. 


California's Cattle Decapitation started as a gore grind band in the late 90's. By 2002, they had refined their sound to a more traditional New York style death metal. 2004's Humanure shows the band at their most appealing phase - rhythmically and musically complex without sounding overly academic. 

Travis Ryan's dual vocals (one guttural, the other dinosaur-esque) are a key element to the band's sound. Michael Laughlin is damn impressive behind the kit too. The rhythmic elements really drive Cattle Decapitation on this release. Tempo changes, break downs, and plenty of blastbeats keep Humanure engaging and keep it from sounding redundant. There is also a fair amount of chromatic melody to be had from the string section. This is musically speaking, a very complex record which demands repeated listens. Album highlights include the title track and Chummified - two examples of dynamic song structure with "morbid" sounding minor 4th harmonies on the guitars. 

Cattle Decapitation are well known for their animal rights advocacy. They are vegans that use the brutal imagery to make a not-so-subtle point about man's cruelty to animals. In this format, it thankfully doesn't come off as preachy, and the message is somewhat muddy without a lyric sheet anyway. As I mentioned, this sounds like east coast death metal - Cannibal Corpse and Suffocation being the immediately recognizable influences. It has a bit of an old school feeling while still remaining very modern sounding. The production is pretty impressive, though I could handle the guitars being a bit louder. Cattle Decapitation are one of the few modern bands doing death metal right, and Humanure is my favorite album of theirs. It gets a 4 out of 5