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Sophomore releases are often of double-edged nature; they either cause a highly promising band to fall from grace or allow a silhouetted band to shine through its reservedly-kept low profile. While some bands, like Sickening Gore, choose not to step beyond the threshold of a debut, their kindred descendants, Cropment for one, are perpetually doomed to dwell in the aftermath of that debut's significant oneness. However, owing to my unfamiliarity with Cropment's eight-year-old debut, it is impossible for me to say whether or not Dead Soil is degrading enough to belong in the first category. Nonetheless, a few wearisome listens may suffice to prove that most of the ingredients are sourced from the kind of soil which the title wears on its sleeve.
As far as musicianship is concerned, none of the performances stand out as being anything but average—not because the band are unkeen on flexing their muscles, yet because they seem to have none to flex. Old-fashioned as I am, I cannot but compare Cropment’s refrainment from playing leads to that of a male from using his penis. Therefore, musically speaking, the band have the balls of a eunuch—because even at occasional erections, they quail before the very mere thought of ejaculating a solo. The bridge near the end of the title track, for example, calls desperately for a solo in its tail – an invitation which is eventually turned down.
If the bass lines were somewhat more audible, comparisons would most likely be made with Disgorge, especially that the vocals are quite identical. However, Cropment’s swirly riffs; harmony bridges; and the band’s ability to inject the songs with the much needed variation as regards zing and tempo, make them superior to their American rivals in the song-writing department. Therefore, some – excluding me – may not find Cropment’s soil to be utterly dead, after all. Nonetheless, methinks Dead Soil fails in terms of execution, not composition, since each of the songs it comprises, while well-composed, proves Cropment’s technical skills to be lacking when most needed.
When all is said and done, I am not willing to ascribe incompetence to the band as I think that enjoying Dead Soil does not solely depend on the parameters of quality on the band’s side, yet also those of quantity on the listener’s. In other words, those into brutal death metal and grindcore may find Dead Soil enjoyable; however, that is largely dependent on how much they know about the genre and how fine the few records they have already distinguished as benchmarks are. As for me, taking René Barthoulot’s vocals into account, Dead Soil is but a big burp – the sound is as loud as brutality demands but the smell is that of rusty metal.
Originally written for http://www.metal-observer.com