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I’ve grown a bit bored with the notion of extreme music, in no small part to what is labeled as extreme currently, because it doesn’t really pass for music. I listen to the latest offering from one of the various metalcore sub-genres and instead of being disturbed or even mildly troubled by it, I’m either bored or mildly amused. Perhaps the source of my humor is that I’ve gotten around to hearing some of the bands that pioneered the concept of directionless rage adapted to the metal medium, and have discovered that the originators didn’t dabble in unfocused ideas, but simply expanding upon a very organized approach. If nothing else, this suggests that there is a line between actually being extreme and simply trying desperately to sound extreme, and while seeing today’s hack bands fail miserably at it is amusing, the nostalgia for a more competent version of it is a little bit saddening.
If I had to pick a handful of albums that were the most directly influential on the current fad called deathcore, this album would be on my shortlist along with the one that follows it. I made the mistake of assuming that when I was going to hear this that I would hear something completely removed from the current manifestation of Cryptopsy, but instead what I have found is a much better and methodical version of the same format. Death metal has always had its own personal share of punk and hardcore influences, and like Cannibal Corpse, most of this band’s influences point directly to the goregrind pioneers known as Carcass. Although I tend to prefer the earlier goregrind style of said band to the exaggerated, over-developed cousin of is found on here, this definitely has its fair share of positive elements.
Stylistically this is very close in sound to the demo that preceded it, but with a much better drum production and a broader set of lead guitar horizons thanks to the arrival of Jon Levasseur, who plays with a much greater sense of expression and technical ease than Dave Galea could ever dream of attaining. If you doubt this, just listen to the brilliant blend of melodic development and flowing fast notes on the solos to “Open Face Surgery” and “Born Headless”, both of which bring about 30 seconds of poetic beauty to what is otherwise pure, unadulterated ugliness. Thankfully Flo traded in his trash can snare sound for something that doesn’t temporarily cancel out the guitar riffs during the blast beats, though he is still a little too loud in the mix and showboating like no tomorrow. Granted the production value and level of active drum presence of this album is nowhere near the obnoxious over-emphasis that typifies the current deathcore scene, but it’s still just a little more than necessary.
But all things considered, there is only one real weak link in this otherwise solid death metal chain, and that is Martin Fergusson. Although technically he is up to the task of playing all the bass lines Kevin Weagle put to the demo, his bass tone is absolutely horrible. Picture a really glassy tone exaggerated to its obvious conclusion, and put it up against a slew of metallic guitar riffs and morose death grunts and primal shrieks. If this were an early hardcore punk album, it might fit, but on here is sounds completely out of place, and destroys the bass break and overall atmosphere of “Graveyard (A Cryptopsy)” completely. If they had had Weagle on this album, it would have worked far better, and the eventual firing of Fergusson was one of the wisest moves this band ever made in their entire history.
As far as what is the best this album has to offer, the closer to the speed/thrash roots of the genre they get, the better it sounds. If it was slowed down a little and Lord Worm wasn’t testing the limits of the masculine voice’s lower register in the most guttural of fashions, “Pathological Frolic” would be a brilliant Slayer meets Kreator thrash fest. The slow thudding riff at the beginning works quite well as a preface to a damned catchy tremolo picked main riff. It goes through a couple off odd tempo changes and occasionally sounds almost like Morbid Angel’s “God of Emptiness”, but not for very long. Similar varied but mostly speed oriented riff monsters with a good sense of organization also include “Abigor” and “Swine of the Cross”, the latter of which unfortunately lacks a guitar solo.
Although this is definitely far more technical than the demo, I can’t quite call this technical death metal in the same sense that one would call Death’s “Individual Thought Patterns” or “Symbolic” by that label. Lord Worm’s barks and the low end guitar sound definitely send it more in the brutal direction, with perhaps a greater sense of adventure in the song structure department. It’s definitely worth your attention if you like the first two Cannibal Corpse albums, although fortunately the band has avoided their New Yorker counterpart’s tendency to engage in overdoing the gore imagery on their album art.