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The way I see it, there's a difference between brutal death metal and slam. When I hear "brutal death metal," I think Abominable Putridity, Katalepsy, Devourment, and the rest of the gang. They all have several stylistic overlaps; face-melting, tech-death wankery with the occasional chugging riff or two over relentless double bass drumming. When I hear "slam," though, an entirely different image pops into my head; something disgusting and primitive. While brutal death metal kills with surgical precision and a vast array of tools, slam just lops random parts off with a meat cleaver. Devour the Unborn's first full-length album, "Consuming the Morgue Remains," will show you exactly what I mean. There's nothing technical to be found here; this isn't brutal death metal, this is straight fucking slam.
What does Devour the Unborn do differently to set itself apart from other bands in this little niche subgenre? Well, unlike a lot of other slam-heavy acts, including Cephalotripsy and Vulvectomy (another band of which Diego Fanelli is the proud vocalist), Devour the Unborn has managed to create some of the grooviest sounding slams by relying less on speed and more on ball-crushingly heavy instrumentation. Almost every slam follows a sort of formula; it starts out blasting, then decomposes into a strong, chugging mid-tempo rhythm. Likewise, almost every song follows another similar formula; starts out fast, slam, small fast segment, slam, rinse, repeat. Minus the occasional fast parts, most songs are dominated by non-stop slamming. Sounds kind of cut-and-paste, I know; but if it isn't broken, don't fix it. The formula works every time, and every time I find myself banging my head. My only complaint here is that sometimes the faster sections are lackluster, and (I hate myself for saying this) somewhat boring. Not a huge deal; the album more than makes up for it.
Speaking of songwriting, I should also mention at this point something that I really enjoy; while this may irritate the living hell out of some listeners, Devour the Unborn reuses riffs. For example, the outro slam of "Dissected Inhumation" is revisited in "Slaughter Morgue," albeit faster and with a few new parts thrown in. While I didn't catch this on my first listen, I did on subsequent listens. I can understand that some people may be opposed to this practice, but I personally love it.
For the most part, the sound of the instruments is great. The drumming in particular really stands out; during the mid-tempo sections, the drums pound out a groove unlike anything else I've heard in the genre. They dictate the flow of the song; it's almost as if the band is a hivemind and the drummer is in all control. When it's time to slam, the drums start the thunderous assault, then pick it up a little, and the guitar, bass, and vocals seem to follow the pattern set by the drums. This is proof that you don't need to play fast to be heavy; some of the heaviest parts on the album are some of the slowest. The guitar, while not standing out as much as the drums, is still definitely a force to be reckoned with; it has a great bass-y tone, reminding me of something along the lines of Mortician or Impetigo. The bass, in conjunction with the guitar, results in a killer low-end on the album that goes really well with the music. The vocals are nice and disgusting, just as they should be. All-in-all, the production and tone, while probably not to everyone's liking, compliment the music. I can't imagine the album any other way.
In conclusion, this is one of my favorite releases of any metal subgenre. However, it's only for some people; if you like fast, technical death metal, you probably won't enjoy this much. If you like banging your head so hard you lose brain cells, this is probably for you. This is simultaneously the grooviest and heaviest slam release I've ever heard; it's the auditory equivalent of a meat cleaver to the temple. And I fucking love it.
Devour the Unborn's debut album is an extremely apt summation of modern slam death metal. It's not very good.
To be fair, a number of Devour the Unborn's faults on Consuming the Morgue Remains can be attributed to factors which are not related to the actual composition of their music. The production job is pretty fucking awful, not because of any outright rawness but because it's simply too processed and professional for its own good. The drum kit, in particular, sounds so crystal clear and triggered that it may as well have been completely programmed - the snare is clean and free of donkage, the cymbals sound the exact same no matter how the drummer hits them, and even then they sound almost deliberately fake and plastic. In addition, the drums sounds like they're being played in an entirely different room of my house compared to the rest of the instruments, what with their oddly distant position in the mix, separated from the rest of the instruments and sounding a fair bit louder than they should as well.
The band still make plenty of errors which are pretty much entirely in their control, though. The slams are pretty single-minded (in a bad way), pretty much sticking to 4/4 time for the entire album and never trying anything that isn't a super-stale stompy section (try saying that five times fast), a super-stale stompy section with triplets phoned in at random intervals which don't ever sound fine-tuned for their place in the music, or a bit of (still rather predictable) syncopation. Meanwhile, the guitar tone is one of the oddest choices I've ever heard in terms of a BDM album. It's not necessarily the worst, but I'm genuinely confused by the decision to use it here because it sounds like it'd be much closer to home on a Swedeath revival album than Consuming the Morgue Remains, and even then a Swedeath band would have to think twice before using a guitar tone this thin and devoid of chunkiness or impact.
Devour the Unborn are downright frustrating when it comes to slams, in that they seem to have taken some religious oath against ever correctly utilizing the double bass pedal when slamming. This basically strips the slams of all their power, since slams need some sort of backing assault to keep the feeling of crushing heaviness intact. Most of the time this results in non-threatening, "WOO PARTY"-type slams where the beats follow the exact same rhythm scheme as the chugging guitars, which usually entails a triplet pattern or two thrown into a measure of quarter notes, but it reaches levels of anger-inducing frustration when the band actually get a decent rolling double bass going, then suddenly stop because the guitars aren't playing a triplet at that section of the music. The sensation this produces is literally not too far off from fucking to the point where you're bordering on the edge of sexual climax, then suddenly stopping, pulling out, putting on your clothes and saying "Welp, time to call it a night. It was nice having you." It's not just bad songwriting, it's actively irritating to the listener.
Oddly enough, the band are more than happy to start using the double bass during parts of the music where its use doesn't really help much at all: namely, the tremolo riffs which sound like half-step-driven slam melodies translated into lots and lots of notes. These aren't awful or anything, but they're downright unnecessary since it's generally accepted that if you go about writing riffs (as opposed to catchy chugging sections), you usually need some sort of captivating melody for the listener to appreciate as opposed to random half-steps up and down. These riffs opt for the latter, and as such they're essentially worthless. Considering all the good they (don’t) do, they might as well have been replaced with more slams, because at least then I wouldn't be able to see that the band have a fully functional second kick pedal and simply refuse to use it in places that would sound nice.
Diego Fanelli of Vulvectomy fame is the vocalist here, but his style doesn't really work here at all. Vulvectomy operate around thugged-out, rhythmically simple slams and use generally faster tempos than Devour the Unborn do, so Fanelli's vocal method of grunting "ooh eee urgh, eee doo wee, kee eee doo, eee" actually worked quite well there. Here, however, not only is the music generally too cleanly presented to suit his rather filthy and crude vocals, but because he rhythmically follows the guitars no matter where they go, you don't get to see any of those cool sections where the rhythmic emphasis will quickly trade off between the slams and vocals. For all intents and purposes, Devour the Unborn have a guitar that happens to make guttural noises whenever the band plays a note on it.
With its running time dominated by rhythmically incompetent, practically identical "WOOHOO SO FUN, I'M GONNA PUT ON A MUNICIPAL WASTE ALBUM NEXT" slams that fail to capture the grotesquerie or evil that people tend to think of when you mention death metal, its guitar tone practically unsuited for any sort of music whatsoever, its vocalist a poor choice for the music surrounding him, and its members insistent upon not picking up their pace to blast speed even when such an addition would greatly help their songs retain some sort of interesting quality, it is with much dismay that I announce that Consuming the Morgue Remains is an extremely apt summation of modern slam death metal.