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To call the first and only Jenovavirus demo (aptly titled Demo #1) a true behemoth would be selling it short. While expansive is not a word usually accredited to the slam faction of brutal death metal, this release really does transcend the perceived limitations of its niche. Likewise, atmosphere is something that is not often attributed to slam or BDM in general, but this release oozes a filthy amount of it. However, don't let that make you think that this diminishes the brutality of this beast. This is an undoubtedly vicious, punishing and most of all crushing affair. While I don't think I'd go as far as calling this a popular release in the death metal pantheon, it has gained some notoriety as slam for people who don't like slam. And that's understandable - this is widely outside the paradigm of what slam usually encompasses. However, this is just as much fit for a wiggered-out wannabe-thug slamhead. They certainty don't carve out the heart of their sound in favour of accessibility. This is music for freaks; music for the fringes. This is music to experience whilst on excessive doses of narcotics; music to cut into a deeper, darker realm of your psyche.
The inclusion of an overt atmosphere is one of the greatest things that sets Jenovavirus apart from the hordes. This is largely manifested in the form of otherworldly synths (although no one said this other world was a pleasant one), strange sounds ripped straight out of a nightmare dimension and decidedly doomy sections. These doomy crawls accentuate the more ripping forays. These give the demo a distinguishable attitude; a distinct feeling and depth I have never heard anything close to in brutal death metal. With a cold industrial tinge, this offering gives off both a depths of the ocean vibe and a decaying futuristic dystopia feel. Come to think of it, I don't know why the hell I haven't thought to put this on while playing the first two BioShock games.
The guitar tone here is insanely massive. Thick, crushing and absurdly heavy, this is unparalleled in slam, and honestly it's one of the most potent tones I've heard across the board in heavy music. It feels like drowning under the weight of a sea of crude oil and raw sludge. It drips both potent atmosphere and unmatched brutality. If recorded with your run-of-the-mill guitar tone this would lose much of its magic. This tone makes it feel like the guitar is ripping its way out of some primordial ooze. A conventional approach just wouldn't make sense it for this release.
Don't let all this atmosphere talk distract you from just how gut-wrenchingly punishing all this is. When these fellas decide to smash your face in, they let the riffs do the talking, coming in with the might of a grossly oversized sledgehammer. Their riffs are varied but always coherently fit into the bigger picture. Asides from the aforementioned dirges, we have some more traditional BDM flourishes, more fast-paced almost rocking sort of stuff like the opening to "Scimetar" (the frenzied energy of these riffs almost remind me of hardcore) as well as odd dissonant chug patterns. And slams. Jesus fucking Christ, do these guys know how to slam. It's not even that they write some of the most catchy slams out there (which they absolutely do), it's that they know exactly the right time to put them in. While central to the overall final product, slams are not used as often as you'd expect. However, they are used at precisely the right times, making them just that more powerful.
Everything here is exceedingly tight and the rhythm section is no exception. The bass, while not buried in the mix, functions primarily as a tool to stop the massive beast that is the guitar from collapsing into itself. It props the guitar up and keeps the thick haze of otherworldly brutality flowing. It does occasionally burst out of the fold at the end of a phrase, acting as a nice little fill. The drums here are programmed, but don't let that throw you off. Many bands in their demo phase use drum programming as a crutch, not having the resources to include live drumming. In instances like those the drum programming is used only to mimic the real thing. Here is a case where a real drummer would have made the release worse. Drum programming is really the only thing suitable for this bizarre monolith. Wether it be jangley cymbal work, weird slowed-down industrial sort of stuff, blasts or a strange succession of high pitched pinging sounds, the drums don't just work here - however unlikely they are a perfect fit and make an already stellar release into one that is wildly successful on every front.
Finally, the vocals. Goddamn, if everything else wasn't enough - these vocals, man. I've never heard anything like it. The dude doesn't always do them, but there is one style he uses quite often that is distinct, profoundly bizarre and straight up inhuman. They sound like a mix of of a prehistoric ocean-dwelling beast bellowing out a decrepit death-cry and a centuries-old door slowly creaking shut on rusty, half-broken hinges. This one of a kind vocal approach certainly isn't suited to most bands in the genre, but here it just fits in so perfectly with the wonderfully constructed weirdness. He does use more traditional BDM vocals at times, employing both a gurgle-laced growl and inhaled squeals. Sometimes he gets really weird with his already weird approach - case in point: the beginning "Wring a Deep Brain". We are met with an ascending succession of squeals; think of the twisted, drugged-out death metal version of a barbershop quartet. It is, of course, the weird fucked up frog croaks on meth that make this something truly removed from this plane of existence.
A true anomaly in a sea of wigger-laced mediocrity, this transcends the genre that birthed it. This twists and morphs itself into another beast entirely. They have clearly mastered orthodox riffing, but often choose to slash their way through a less-treaded path. The vocals that can only be described as completely fucking insane, the industrial-tinged weirdness of the programmed drums, the superior riffing - it looks like we have a true gem here, folks. Wading through a shit-ocean of horrendous demos can sometimes pay off. This is a true manifestation of originality, talent and vision. Stuff like this doesn't come around very often, especially in the often disappointing world of demo bands. It is a true shame that they didn't release the demos for the album they were planning. If we lived in a just world, there would be a process under which we could court-order them to release it to the general public.
You know your favorite band kicks major ass when you're caught listening to some of their earliest recordings without even having to explain something along the lines of "these are their old songs, it's their very first demo tape" to anyone giving a raised eyebrow over your music collection. Almost every band these days has half their album pre-written before entering the studio and having their producer work up another 5 or 6 tracks for them to get on with their full-length in order to make their record label some money. Bands usually never have so much interest into what their demo CD sounds like, they'd rather just pop in everything they can show off within a quick 10 or 20 minutes on a said demo tape in order for a label to babysit them from there on.
Jenovavirus do it completely differently, this demo contains six tracks of stuff you'd actually expect from a label-released full-length album. Despite the grainy album cover, the songs are studio-quality produced label oriented stuff and they're goddamn amazing tracks at that. It's almost sad to see how no band tends to put in the effort or time like these guys obviously do. To be totally fair, the cover for this release threw me off as well. I expected low-fi, mediocre death metal songs directly meant to be shown to their nearest record label in order for nothing more than to make a quick buck. I did not expect pounding, brutal, nasty tracks, produced, mastered and written almost to near-perfection. The music has enough variety to keep you entertained through and through and by the time it was over, I was already a little upset that there wasn't more.
After all, this is Jenovavirus' only material they ever released, members of this band would later form a new project called Blunt Force Trauma (with slightly different lineup positions). But without further ado, it's now time to dig in onto why I loved this release. The guitar tone is absolutely blaring, think Wormed but with more distortion. The drums (while programmed) and entertaining to listen to. While most programmed drums on releases are usually just there to fill in the empty space, this band really did make sure to have some sort of dynamic in the background. Rapid fills and blasts are played in between the band's extreme jarring progression between influences. The music here carries either very slow doom-esque riffs ("Hexevildom"), slams ("Deviding Cel" and "Wring a Deep Brain"), breakdowns ("Primetive Aboxy") or bat-out-of-hell fast licks, almost with nothing ever feeling out of place or forced upon like it was done just for the sake of doing it. Heck their influences are so damn diverse that even in one part of the song "Scimetar", they sound like they're playing metalcore for an entire section.
Now for the vocals, this is something I didn't quite enjoy so much. Mainly because they sound inhaled (they probably are) and the constant dual tracking got a little on my nerves. They're kind of akin to goregrind vocals, just minus the insane amount distortion or special effects. These vocals are straight from the throat, but nothing you haven't heard before if you're already used to gurgled or slimy extreme metal vocalization found in grindcore-influenced death metal genres. Especially since this guy only did vocals on this release while the other two members handled the instrument duties, his position almost feels less pointless. I mean think of it like the two guys in this group are shredding away at some of the sickest death metal song structures their country has ever seen and they have this guy just inhaling a bunch of crap on the microphone. At times I would recommend that they had a different singer, but at other times I don't mind his voice. I have mixed emotions on the vocals overall. The performance could have been way better, but at that, could have been way worse.
With everything this release has put into it and the diverse huge amount of influences and the time they so obviously have garnered into making the music heard on here, I probably have to say that in the world of metal, this is the best demo album I have ever heard. In the end, the band even reconcile their Japanese heritage by doing things different than everyone else. I know I already mentioned their influences above, but can I just take note of even some minor electronic influences on here as well? Synthesizer parts can clearly be heard on songs such as "Deviding Cel" and "Scimetar", yet never once sound awkward in the process.
I deem this demo a superb release. I would recommend buying it, but since copies of it probably don't even exist anymore, my only advice is going out and finding a MediaFire download file of it as soon as possible.
I've referenced these guys time and time again in previous reviews, suggesting them as alternatives to whatever crappy band I was reviewing at the time, now I think it's due time to give them some love on their own turf. Jenovavirus are the ultimate realization of the potential at the heart of the Japanese BDM scene - the entire scene is full of great stuff, as I've tried to display time and time again (Gorevent, Rest in Gore, and Veiyadra for examples that I've actually reviewed; Glossectomy are another top-notch act), but I think Jenovavirus are the best representatives of it even if they're hardly the most-known band involved with it. Hell, they're not even very representative of it in the sonic sense - it's just that they're so astonishingly great that I feel like this should be everybody's introduction to the general scene. I've whored this band around to multiple people, including plenty who aren't BDM types in general, and most have been able to come to the same conclusion - that this thoroughly and definitively kicks ass, and lots of it.
Jenovavirus are the kind of band that gives you hope that maybe the "endless searching through unknown bands' demos in search of a gem" method of music discovery has some weight to it. It's near-impossible to listen to these guys without getting weary, wistful remorse for what the band could have become. It's not even a matter of "they had so much potential", because the band's demo is quite obviously the result of potential rather than the exhibition of it. Everything Jenovavirus do is super-tight, rigid, and executed with downright astonishing levels of precision.
I feel like the first thing I need to draw attention to here is the production job. Shitty production on BDM bands' demos is kind of a given, since it's a style of DM that usually demands extra attention to clarity, heaviness, and punch, which most bands can't deliver on a demo budget. That's why it's even more astounding that Jenovavirus's sole demo displays such an amazing sonic presentation even by full-length album standards. The guitar tone - Jesus FUCK, is it heavy. It's pretty perfect all around: it's got mass, it's got bass, it's got clarity, and it's got a distinct sense of weight and tone that I don't think I've ever heard perfectly replicated anywhere else. As such, it's essentially perfect for the type of music that Jenovavirus play.
The music on display here is distinctly different from any other BDM band I've ever heard - Jenovavirus take on a starkly industrial edge that permeates just about everything they do here. It's not exactly a dark type of industrial influence, just chaotic and very clinically-tinged. The percussion is obviously driven by a drum machine (granted, a technical and well-programmed one), there's a lot of intentionally planted electronic whirring and hissing that spazzes in the meat of the mix, and the music is, to an extent, driven by what might be the biggest bass drops I've ever heard in a metal band. They're nearly constant, they impact with the force of an atomic bomb, and when the band go REALLY overboard with it (like in "Hexevildom" or the reality-bending outro to "Primetive Aboxy") it basically shuts your brain off for a few seconds. It's... well, immense. Explosively so.
This is ignoring just how good the band are at riffs, though. Like most Japanese BDM bands, Jenovavirus aren't totally slam-focused (though the slams that are here are indeed extremely heavy and extremely fun). Their riffs are chaotic, malevolent and spasmodic, mostly developing in really quick upward spirals spiced with pinch harmonics, or thick, stompy ascensions from a tremolo root note. They're all really memorable, actually; while one wouldn't be foolish to disregard most slam death metal bands' riffs as filler, they sincerely aren't in Jenovavirus's case. I feel like I also need to point out these downright retardedly heavy sections (like the one in the first two minutes of "Hexevildom") that can't really be called slams, they're more like breakdowns designed by people who simply don't give any fucks about anything. They're just big piles of "off"-sounding chords, piled together into monstrous chugs that... well, quite frankly, they rule. I guess what's most impressive is that the band do all of this while bringing every single element to its maximum potential. The various industrial tinges feel totally fleshed out; the slams are all groovy, memorable, and make you want to wreck shit; and the riffs are placed wherever the band needs to build up tension and do just that. Pretty much everything about this, instrumentally, is just about as good as humanly possible.
The vocals here are probably the first thing that most people notice - the longer I ruminate on Jenovavirus, the closer I come to the conclusion that they mostly exist as a novelty rather than as an ideal vocal technique. The vocal performance here is an entire ensemble of sounds, almost none of which have been used in death metal before. The majority of them are intentionally obtuse, low inhaled croaks; some of them are conventional grunt/squeal hybrids, and others slightly higher in the vocal register and sound like "eeeeeee" (these might be the most obviously weird, they tend to sound like a frog getting crushed under a car tire, or as a friend described them, "doors creaking shut"). Oftentimes, there's more than one voice crooning at once from multiple angles within the mix, which is actually pretty interesting. I feel like it was probably best to try a vocal approach like this in music as weird as Jenovavirus's, but when I listen to this, I'm not really convinced that the music absolutely needs the vocals to be like this, you know? It's intentional strangeness and it's nice, but I feel like, all things considered, a more conventional approach might be nicer. I don't listen to Jenovavirus because I think they're LOL SO WACKY, I listen to them because they're tight-as-fuck songwriters who seemed to have an extremely firm grasp on all the concepts integrated into their music. Any added flair on top of that should be expected to integrate itself into the band's general sterile, clinical atmosphere, and I just don't really feel like the vocals do.
Fortunately, like most BDM vocals, they're relatively low-profile if you're not consciously paying attention to them, so they don't actively detract from anything going on - it's just as easy to simply sit back and bask in how fucking crushing Jenovavirus are. Though it's a shame that this demo is the only material the band ever released, it makes up for it by possessing a musical formula so tight that it's basically guaranteed to leave some sort of impression on everybody who hears it. The groove is insane, the riffs are even more insane, the sense of momentum is great... hell, everything about it is just really great, okay? This is definitely one of my favorite demo offerings of all time, and anybody with even a cursory interest in brutal death metal should check it out.
When I saw that this paragon of face ripping slam had no reviews, when my eyes gazed upon the criminal under appreciation of what should be considered a legendary release, I knew something had to be done. People had to be made aware of the monstrousness lurking in their wiggeripherals. The world may never know wether or not the band could have replicated what we find here on their full length, a thirteen track album which THEY DEMOED ALL OF BUT NEVER RELEASED. That's just not right. The cash problems proved too much I guess, and considering they only have 647 listeners on a site like Last.fm and only true slamtards ever seek them out, a picture starts to emerge. A picture of injustice. Don't get me wrong, this is brutal as fuck slamming death through and through, which appeals to a very limited number of people in the first place, but it could appeal to so many more metal fans due to it's quite experimental nature, utterly deranged, inhuman vocals, electronic enhancements, and skyscraper levelling guitar tone.
Let's talk about the ''vocals'' for a second. This bizarre sort of ridiculously guttural bubbling noise. I truly have no clear idea of what I could compare them too. They sound like some hitherto undiscovered creature dying in a gigantic, malfunctioning drain, while the wigger king takes a hit from his 250 dollar bong. Mixed louder than every other element, they cloak the music in an extra layer of sheer brutality, belching forth with their own diabolical rhythm. Sometimes veering into something resembling powerful exhaled pig squealing before crashing back down into nothing you've ever heard before. When combined with the electronic effects they sometimes throw in, it sounds like this music wasn't even created by human beings. There's no lyrics. They don't need lyrics. The first few seconds of Wring a Deep Brain being a perfect example, making them almost catchy. Though you probably should not attempt to sing along on public transportation.
I can imagine these three japanese dudes having a jam, wearing their Devourment hoods and Dying Fetus caps, and getting truly hammered. They're auditioning vocalists. After a few run of the mill grunters, growlers, and, strangely, a 40 year old man wearing pink tights and wailing over their devourslams, Sowtiis walks in. He politely introduces himself, takes the microphone, check, check, one two three, and then EXCELSIOR. Hexelvidom and Atutician look at each other knowingly, scrap all of the music they've come up with to this point, and decide to get STRANGE. Because that's what the guitar work is on here. Atmospheric slam, if there ever was such a thing. Slam with attitude. You could level lots of complaints at the music, (it seems unmemorable, they mainly switch between two styles of riffing, the vocals are retarded) but unoriginality within it's genre could not be one. They take the template that Devourment set, which is riffblast/slamittyslam/riffblast, and run with it. Contorting it every which way to fit their vile purpose. It's like they decided Devourment didn't have a massive enough guitar tone, didn't use enough wide intervals during their tech moments, and, most of all, didn't utilize odd enough time signatures in their slams. Despite this, most of the slams manage to really stick. They do this thing where they'll play a slam over some blasting, then slow it down more and more over even more insane double bass, etching it into your mind with a rusty musical scalpel. It works every time. The production is really perfect. They only tune down to B but it sounds like the lowest thing ever while still retaining quality and being made that much more intense by the speedfreak drum programming. Pinch harmonics sound sick, legato is clean. Everything cuts through and this is only a demo!
Speaking of that loving and precise drum programming, it's out of this world. There's some really interesting fast pinging rhythms in Sex Eyes Baby (these guys have the coolest song titles) and it really emphasizes the best slam ever (the one in Wring A Deep Brain, you'll know when you hear it) with crisp and crushing sounding bass pedals. You can tell that they really tried to utilize every piece of the kit and create interesting and varied rhythms. Even when they're just blasting the fuck out, a few different things are going on. Soon, drummers will become obsolete as mad slamitists assemble twisted creations in Japanese basements and the world will crumble.
So, with a name inspired by Final Fantasy of all things, surreal synths, of-kilter slamming goodness, neck snapping drums and a vocalist who probably wishes you dead, we have an album which succeeds at what it set out to do. Sure, it doesn't have the most variation, and being what it is, even if it's experimental it's formulaic, but it's a mere 17 minutes long and one of the best demos ever created, so if you have 17 minutes to spare and you like intelligent brutality, which turned out to not be an oxymoron after all, what are you waiting for?