without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
For narrative purposes, let's temporarily imagine the brutal death metal scene as a whole as if it were a human being. It lives; it feels and loves; it possesses a physical body, the ability to speak, and all the other niceties that come with being a specimen of Homo sapiens. Sometime in 2010 or 2011, he checks into the hospital and the doctors, laying eyes upon his physical state, rush him to the emergency room. Over the next few days, he's hooked up to various bags of intravenous fluids, received numerous X-rays and biopsies, yet no one can make a diagnosis which would sufficiently explain all the various ailments he's facing.
Medically, he's accepted that his best days are behind him, by far: as he's aged, his Cephalotripsy cells have become cancerous and faded in efficiency, and have essentially stopped benefiting him entirely. His Cerebral Incubation cells, which would normally serve as an efficient backup, have been absent for a while. His body is attempting to create more, but it might very well be too late for him by the time enough are created. As a result, his immune system is left unshielded from the merciless garbage bacteria that would kill even the hardiest human, were they in such a state of weakness. He becomes tainted by rampant bacteria - "technical brutal death metal", they call them. They appear beneficial at first glance, but looks soon prove to be deceiving: these organisms do not slam viruses and bacteria as the Cephalotripsy cells once did, they blast it. These blasts, within the context of a brutal death metal scene's body, are like vitamins: essential in small doses, but in excess they contribute to internal chaos and general disruption. And yet they are running rampant, with Defeated Sanity and Condemned and Amerigorge bacteria spreading like wildfire throughout his body. Meanwhile, the world's greatest doctors and nurses congregate to debate methods that may save this man. They extract samples from cells superficially similar to Cephalotripsy cells - Abominable Putridity cells, to be more precise - and clone them, breeding hybrids such as Pathology, Katalepsy, Disfigurement of Flesh, and so on. They introduce these into the brutal death metal scene's bloodstream, only to discover far too late that Abominable Putridity is essentially a much weaker, mutated Cephalotripsy cell. These mutant cells are now running rampant in his body along with the technical brutal death metal bacteria, wreaking havoc on his organs and leaving him clinging to life with only the frailest of grips.
The doctors congregate one final time in a single room, House-style. They toss ideas around the table, and most are shot down. And then, one young Czech doctor, who's always been so relatively quiet at these meetings... He has it. His solution is quite simple, actually. Take a fully-functional Cephalotripsy cell. Now take another. And another. And another. Now splice them together, forcefully and with disregard for the potential consequences. It's an interesting proposal, and the doctors are up for the task. They retreat to the laboratory. On July 10th, 2012, the Czech man's mastermind is complete. Abhorrent Stench of Posthumous Gastrorectal Desecration is unveiled to the world.
This is exactly what the brutal death metal scene needs, and nothing else. Watching their genre face sickness and potential death, Epicardiectomy's first full-length looks at it and says "fuck that", except it's being shouted through a megaphone 6,000 miles wide and broadcasted to Earth from space, so in actuality it's more like "FUUUUCK THAAAAT". I typically don't believe in music genres having saviors or guardian angels, but I'll make an exception here - Epicardiectomy is the brightest glimmer of hope in a post-Cephalotripsy world.
I can see the PMs and emails now. "But MutantClannfear," they'll whine, "Cephalotripsy are still alive and well! How can you say this is a 'post-Cephalotripsy world'?" Perhaps it's not. But it's almost certainly a world in which Cephalotripsy have seemingly lost their interest in the BDM scene's conventions, and chosen to take to their own individual style within the genre. While Uterovaginal Insertion of Extirpated Anomalies is probably one of the best - and simplest - brutal death metal albums to have ever existed, their most recent promo from 2011 hints at a stranger beast. Sporting a surprisingly unrefined and barely-held-together production job, and time signatures that almost feel Meshuggah-ish in that they feel complex for complexity's sake, Cephalotripsy seem to be taking an almost Ulcerate-like direction with their music, creating a sort of brutal death metal that disregards the genre's catchiness while retaining the core BDM atmosphere of brutality and senseless violence. It can't be said that this couldn't be foreseen, because even on Uterovaginal Insertion of Extirpated Anomalies they wanked around with odd time signatures more than your average BDM band. 5/4 here, 7/4 there, a 20/4 over yonder. They were still being played within the context of a slam-driven band who took all their pointers from Devourment, though, and that's where the promo differs from it. The material itself is decent, but it's not the sort of stuff that I want to lead the genre into a new decade - I imagine that trying to do what Cephalotripsy do is very difficult, let alone doing it properly. Were other bands to fuck it up (and we all know they would), the BDM scene might truly experience its final gasps of air, as it would attempt to grasp at whatever experiments it could before finally conceding and dying. I've digressed a bit further than I intended, but this brings me to Epicardiectomy.
Epicardiectomy understand that brutal death metal, being a very primitive genre which probably took all of two seconds to conceptualize, had probably reached its qualitative peak within a year or two of its formal conception. A few other bands, such as Cerebral Incubation and Cephalotripsy, have also understood this in the past, and spent their days refining Devourment's early material instead of attempting to adapt the formula to the times. To put it quite simply, Epicardiectomy, and their seven-syllable name, do not gravity blast. They do not riff, they do not tremolo, they do not noodle. They slam. They slam and slam and just never fucking stop.
I was previously familiar with Epicardiectomy via their involvement on the Goresoaked Slamassacre split, and while they were probably the weakest band present there at the time, they've definitely stepped up their game and improved practically fucking everything. Essentially, this full-length is Uterovaginal Insertion of Extirpated Anomalies loaded up with enough PCP to kill a bull elephant thrice over. Cephalotripsy tune their guitars to something like B, Epicardiectomy tune to A (if not even lower). The vocals, while not really similar to Angel Ochoa's trademark drain gurgles, are a sort of muffled, vaguely Dying Fetus-ish growl/snarl that is just as potent (if not more so) at suiting the needs of slam death that is this fucking retarded. Basically, if you told me that these guys had never heard any music in their lives that wasn't by Cephalotripsy or Devourment, I'd believe you.
The slams (yes, I'm going to refer to all the guitar parts of this album as "the slams", because that's pretty much an accurate representation of what they are) are wonderfully constructed in all the various factors that go into their creation. First of all, the guitar tone. It's clear as crystal, it's got a faint bit of crunch, there's bass out the wazoo, and it's just all-around massive. Whereas Cephalotripsy's guitar tone mostly just crunches, with comparatively little bass involved, this is a lot closer to modern slam standards, featuring perfect amounts of just about everything. The slams draw from so many different aspects of brutal death metal that the idea of it ever getting stale is practically fantastical. Searching through the album's composition, you'll find, among others: momentous, fast slams backed by Cephalotripsy-esque rolls of double bass; slams that work around inserting triplets into a measure, similar to classic Devourment; stompy slam/breakdowns which are usually closer to home with bands like Dying Fetus than all-out BDM; and chuggy deathcore-ish slams backed by blast beats. But saying that there are four types of slams on this album is really an unfair way to look at it, because Epicardiectomy do so much to break the monotony of their music that it really should be more formally recognized.
Every single slam on Abhorrent Stench of Posthumous Gastrorectal Desecration has its own unique identity, shaped by one of the above four rhythms mixed with a bit of added flair. This flair comes in a few flavors, from the thick, aurally pleasing pinch harmonics (which are used here exactly as pinch harmonics should be in BDM - as accents, just as one would use a snare drum); to the subtly shifting and changing drum beats, which refuse to laze around and often fully develop themselves throughout the four measures in which a slam is played; to the alternating to palm muting and back from it (but really, from palm muting and back to it, since they do it so often), which throws a few clean, undistorted notes into the middle of the band's chugfests to catch you off guard; to a little extra dash of melody similar to that which early Waking the Cadaver employed, creating something which has musical value beyond a bunch of catchy half-steps up and down a scale; to the nice little EQ effects which occasionally pop in and out of the music, such as the absolutely delicious one near the end of "Gobbling the Erupted Intestinal Mash" which sort of floats through each of your ears, losing all its bass before gaining it all back suddenly with crushing force; to the massive, explosive bass drops the band throw in every once in a while just to remind you how fucking awesome they are. Assuming that the band can use any combination of these elements (including using them one-by-one or all at once), mathematically speaking, they have just created 162,000 different ways to play a slam. Also assuming that each of these can be played on one of four types of rhythms found on this album, that number jumps to 648,000 total possible combinations using Epicardiectomy's brilliant formula, to say nothing about the actual note patterns within the slam that differentiate it rhythmically from other slams. It cannot be stressed enough that each of the slams on this album is wholly unique and memorable, and all of them are worthy of humming to yourself as you walk down the street. Most BDM bands have about two hum-worthy slams on each of their albums; Epicardiectomy managed to build an album out of nothing but hummable slams.
Epicardiectomy also possess a brilliant understanding of how to carry momentum in a slam song. Most BDM bands decide that after a monumental, crushing slam, it's high time to play some dumb tremolo riff or some weak, sparse slam that no one really wants to hear. Even worse, they'll sometimes seemingly drop everything they're doing, as if standing there slack-jawed and thinking to themselves "uh...me no know how to connect slam to slam". Epicardiectomy, being the idiot savants they are, seem to always know how to connect their slams, be it with a stripped-down guitar riff with no drums or vocals backing it up, a thumpy Dying Fetus-esque section with a larger- than-usual emphasis on the downbeat, or simply jumping straight into them when that's deemed the right thing to do. Not only that, but their songs alternate between tempos with astounding finesse. This was a minor issue on the band's Goresoaked Slamassacre material, since Epicardiectomy would occasionally slow down to a slam and then just keep slowing down to the point of self-parody, but the band have clearly been taught well since then - the band will slow down with a slam that rolls in its pace, and with just as much prior warning as needed, pick back up to blast speed in a manner that feels both natural and necessary to the pace of the song. (A side note about the blasts in this album - yes, it is true I usually treat blast beats in BDM like moldy spots that need to be cut out of a banana. However, this album makes them work, because they are not used in typical Defeated Sanity "gravity blast over riff" fashion. These are more similar to the blasts you hear in the more extreme sorts of deathcore bands, like Suicide Silence - they basically involve hitting the cymbals on the downbeats while the snares work twice as fast underneath them. They're probably my favorite type of blast beat, and the decision to use them here on this album, as opposed to alternating blasts or gravity blasts, is greatly appreciated.)
Simply put, the drumming is very yummy. Starting off with the tone of the kit: Epicardiectomy have a serious case of DAT SNARE going on. Seriously, it sounds like a perfect mix between Abnormality's wood block and your everyday slam band's trash can, and this combination works absolutely perfectly. During the slams, the snare clanks and donks, and the kit practically rattles like a coffee can during the gravity rolls, but during the blasts it goes to wood block mode. This is good, as wood block gravity rolls probably wouldn't sound very nice and clanky blast beats would sound even less appealing. The cymbals are mostly very hissy and undefined with the distinct exception of the china cymbal, which sounds surprisingly spacious and clear. Of course, this is slam death metal, so the background noise provided by the cymbals doesn't really detract from anything at all. And the kick drums are also a very happy medium between nice-sounding and too nice-sounding (so they don't really click, but they don't sound like an ass being slapped or a soft, "pffffffft" sort of fart either). Technique-wise, besides the aforementioned blasts, kick drum rolls and snare rolls, there are a lot of syncopated rhythms, where a cymbal or snare hit will be absent or a beat late. These don't make much sense at first listen, but once you're able to detect that they're coming, they can be appreciated as nuances in the general feel of the music. You could also interpret this as a remnant from the Cephalotripsy influence - while Epicardiectomy aren't really fucking around with any time signatures besides 4/4 and 3/4 here, they may very well be keeping the relatively odd (by BDM standards, of course; don't expect Flo Mounier levels of technicality or anything) accents as a homage to their main influence while managing to still dumb down their music a fair bit.
The bass guitar is...wait, is there a bass here? I don't hear a bass. Moving on.
The vocals are good, and extremely so. They're just as obscenely grotesque as one would expect from an album with a title that's sixteen syllables long. They're actually pretty damn unique and I'm not sure how to accurately describe them. I think "werepig choking on a blanket" still holds up pretty well, but in all seriousness, the vocals are exclusively a very throaty, slurred growl that sounds absolutely feral and, well, brutal. If aliens came to Earth in the distant future and found no evidence of human existence except for the audio on this CD, they'd depict us in their biology textbooks not as primates, but as canines or bears. The vocals have this subtle yet ever-present muffling effect, suggesting that the vocalist is either cupping his hands or producing sound from the very back of his vocal chords. Either way, it's fine with me, because these vocals suit the music to a T. Honestly, I'm pretty sure I'd be disappointed in this album if it had any more core variation than it does, so the vocals being totally single-minded really doesn't bother me much at all. The vocalist takes a decidedly backseat approach to the music, pretty much being like a particularly fuzzy bit of background noise which regularly pops up around the slams and gives them a bit of added roughness. That's not to say they can't be appreciated as vocals, though - much like Dying Fetus, Epicardiectomy are capable of delivering some vocal lines that, while decidedly delivered in a monotone, are catchy as all can be. For any other band, they'd sound ridiculously silly, but Epicardiectomy were destined to have vocals that sound like these, in the same manner that Epicardiectomy were destined to be the smartest band of retards that ever existed.
The doctors walk out together to the hospitalized personification of the brutal death metal scene, still lying in his bed and gravely ill. In their hands they hold a syringe, full of a cloudy green liquid. It's absolutely filthy, olidous, and purulent, but the doctors know that it's for the good of the brutal death metal scene that they do it. Forcing him to hold out his arm, they tap into a large vein and slowly push the nauseating fluid down inside, little by little. Oh, he screams and he swears and he squirms, and as they pull the needle back he spasms violently. A few minutes pass and his body is calmed once again. He looks calmed, or eased, as if a massive discomfort had suddenly been removed from his body. A day later, a blood test reveals his Cephalotripsy cell counts have miraculously returned to stable levels. He stays in the hospital for one final week, being injected with the mixture each day. On his last day, he asks to see the syringe for a moment before he is discharged. On its side, in black marker, he sees the word crudely scrawled: "EPICARDIECTOMY". He grins.
Abhorrent Stench of Posthumous Gastrorectal Desecration is most certainly not going to magically sway the opinions of anyone who needs their death metal to be intelligent and dissonant and complex and what-the-fuck-ever else. If anything, it'll attract attention similar to that drawn by Waking the Cadaver's Perverse Recollections of a Necromangler and go down in history as one of the worst metal albums of all time. Evaluated as a slam album with no outside prejudices, however, this is perfect. This is what all slam death metal bands come sort of close to reaching for a few seconds of their entire careers, except in this case it's stretched out into an entire album. Honestly, if you made me try to pick a worst moment on this album, it'd probably be 2:29-2:36 in "Ulcerous Cadaveric Decrepitation" if only because excluding the occasional intro samples, that's the only section of music that isn't a slam. To reiterate: there are exactly seven (7) seconds on this album when this band are not playing a slam. The members of Epicardiectomy are quite obviously musical geniuses who have succeeded at dissecting the nature of slam death metal and eliminating all elements of it which did not more-or-less contribute to the crushing of the listener's skull. I wouldn't be surprised if they take five years or more to release their next album (hey, if Lykathea Aflame and !T.O.O.H.! are any indication, Czech bands that play wonderful music are rather slow about releasing it), but whenever their next album drops, I'll await it eagerly in the hopes that it'll earn the title of Album of the Year in my heart, just like this one did. Abhorrent Stench of Posthumous Gastrorectal Desecration is the savior, the zenith, the ultimate regression, the chemotherapy...and hopefully, the future of the brutal death metal scene as a whole.