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An overlooked industrial metal gem - 95%

Hellish_Torture, November 5th, 2014

In opposition to most modern “self-proclaimed old school” metalheads, I really miss the 90s. They represent a sort of magic era to me: those were the times when “experimentation” was the keyword, and metal met other obscure genres which had been developed in the previous decades, such as alternative rock, post-punk, noise rock, funk, industrial and a certain kind of progressive rock. The rise of new subgenres such as industrial metal, alternative metal, post-metal and the “sickest” forms of groove metal (Machine Head, Fudge Tunnel, Skinlab), focused more on slow tempos, dissonances and futuristic visions, brought to metal the “cyberpunk” image for the first time. Cyberpunk stuff was a big deal at that time, and if you look at a Godflesh artwork, you recognize that typical vibe which permeated a lot of late-80s/early-90s obscure, experimental stuff. At that time, technology was something enigmatic and mysterious, and this is what allowed the cyberpunk imagery and all that “visionary” electronic/industrial stuff to be appealing. Nowadays, technology has progressed and everything looks “safer” and more “practical” than before (sadly, also more plastic), so it’s clear that this imagery has decayed. Probably, no one will be able to re-capture anymore those unique atmospheres (in fact, I think it’s no coincidence if Godflesh’s comeback has been rather disappointing).

To be honest, in the early 90s, stuff like Godflesh wasn’t so unpopular between the so-called “old guard”; just pick up Obituary’s “Cause of Death”, and look at the band photo on the back: you will see a Godflesh t-shirt. After all, don’t forget that Justin Broadrick used to play in Napalm Death; and all the Napalm Death members have always been fans of noise and industrial stuff such as The Swans, The Young Gods, Throbbing Gristle and Skinny Puppy. In the 90s, industrial metal became a massive phenomenon, and even some extreme metal bands started some side-projects, jumping on the wagon: Obituary and (most of all) Napalm Death were inevitably between those bands. The union of Donald Tardy, Trevor Peres, Mitch Harris and Shane Embury (the latter just as a simple guest) gave birth to Meathook Seed, one of the sickest industrial metal acts ever existed. And, in 1993, their debut “Embedded” was released by Earache Records.

I still wonder why this record is usually labeled as “industrial death metal”, while most of this stuff sounds very, very groovy and far from the classic style of the two bands involved in this project. Truth be told, the production is reminiscent of Napalm Death’s “Utopia Banished”, but the music is very different from old school death/grind. Right from the first track, “Famine Sector”, you get absolutely shocked: after a gloomy electronic beat, an industrial metal assault fucks you up with extremely dissonant groovy riffs and disturbing whispered vocals. Honestly, the refrain sounds very catchy and almost danceable, but the atmosphere is visionary, excruciating and totally “alien”: after all, the artwork of the album seems to describe a grey, desolated lunar landscape populated by weird little aliens (somewhat similar to E.T., but surely more enigmatic), and the music captures perfectly this vibe, in a very crepuscular, desolated, sick way, evoking a perfect “cyberpunk” image which seems to be very in line with obscure creepy movies of those years, such as “Tetsuo I”.

The rest of the album proceeds pretty much in the same way. As said before, the “old school influences” are very hard to find: some tracks like “A Wilted Remnant” or the title-track offer some palm-muted riffs (however, never particularly fast and usually stuck in the mid-paced territory), but most of the riffage is totally oriented on groove metal in its “less thrashy” form: incredibly, “My Infinity” anticipates of one year some of the earliest Korn’s intuitions (“Blind” comes instantly to mind), and I’m sure that “Day of Conceiving” will remind you at some point to Sepultura’s “Refuse/Resist” (and, coincidentally, “Chaos A.D.” came out just some months later; by the way, Meathook Seed’s name appears between the greetings of the booklet, just saying).

Most of these groovy riffs dwell a lot on dissonance, in order to make things sicker: “My Infinity”, for example, features an addictive dissonant riff which will probably freeze your spine and give you a “spacey/sci-fi” feeling at the same time, achieving the perfect atmosphere the band was looking for. With the addition of various kinds of electronic effects, the use of dissonance often creates a feeling of ambiguousness, confusion and disorientation. This feeling is perceptible in the sudden screamed chorus of “A Fumed Grave”, the destabilizing refrain of “Day of Conceiving” (where, on a tortured shout, some disturbing electronic noises are added) or, most of all, the monumental atmospheric part of “A Wilted Remnant”: an exceptional crescendo of sci-fi atmosphere driven by synths and dissonant guitar parts, enriched by rough industrial noises. With this, you’ll feel like a fucking spaceman sent by NASA in a 60’s space mission on the moon.

The vocal performance, though not particularly professional, is pretty nice. Trevor Peres (usually known as the guitarist of Obituary) alternates creepy whispered vocals (a bit effected, in order to sound more “alien” to the ear) and ungraceful shouts, which after all fit perfectly in this context, since most lyrics deal with desperation, alienation, pain and various struggles, all treated in a very cryptic and interesting way. If you listen to “Forgive”, you’ll feel all the frustration in the obsessive repetition of the ”there is no truth” line. In addition, Donald Tardy, behind his drumkit, delivers what’s even maybe his best performance ever: on this record, his style is obviously different than usual, focusing on Godflesh-inspired drum-machine-like patterns, with lots of double bass, backbeats and various odd time signatures, resulting very fresh and various.

After the weird and destabilizing “Visible Shallow Self”, the album ends in an unexpected way: a 13-minutes instrumental called “Sea of Tranquillity” (perfect title for the album’s concept). An entirely electronic piece of industrial music, adorned with haunting effects, where Shane Embury makes his contribute too (though at that time he was more involved in other side-projects such as Malformed Earthborn and Blood from the Soul). This is the perfect way to close “Embedded”, an album that overcomes everything made by Napalm Death and Obituary in their whole respective careers (pretty much like the only Malformed Earthborn’s full-length does), and still nowadays sounds incredible and visionary.

Few time later, Napalm Death tried to explore a very similar path with their 1994 album “Fear, Emptiness, Dispear”, which, though being a pretty good release and containing some unique gems such as “Throwaway”, fails to recapture the same intensity that Meathook Seed managed to achieve the year before with “Embedded”. This is without doubt one of my favourite industrial metal albums of all time, and I’m so sad to see how most fans of the bands involved in this project have never heard of it. If you love extreme metal and grind, but you’re also enough open-minded to accept groovy, noisy and dissonant sounds in the vein of Godflesh, The Young Gods, Killing Joke, or even Napalm Death’s mid-90’s material, this album’s for you: it perfectly recaptures the essence of old 90’s cyberpunk (when modern technology was something mysterious yet), and it would even be the ideal soundtrack to the first moon landing in 1969.

A futuristic release which, paradoxically, speaks about the glorious past.

Embedded In My Brain - 83%

televiper11, August 11th, 2010

I was digging through my old cassettes the other day and came across this gem of an album from Meathook Seed entitled Embedded, an underrated one-off released on Earache way back in 1993. Giving it a re-listen, I was blown away by how good it was, how well it had held up, and how much I wished they had continued exploring this avenue of extreme music.

As a side-project between members of Obituary and Napalm Death, Embedded is fascinating. It takes the industrial-tinged death metal of Fear, Emptiness, Despair and tips it more aggressively into the industrial side of things. Released a year before F.E.D., it totally presages that album's sound yet steps away from the lingering grind elements. It also has little in common with Obituary at all, which makes it good that those members could get this out of their system safely. I miss more adventurous side-projects like this, where you get to see a different side of your favorite bands without them compromising the integrity of their main projects. Instead of playing it safe, they really branch out and take risks.

Musically, Embedded graces that same fine line between assaultive metal and repetitive industrial that bands like Ministry, Godflesh, and Skin Chamber strode so successfully at the time. The songwriting quality is impeccable, easily straddling multiple genres while constantly dishing up tasty riffs and memorable hooks. Mitch Harris certainly didn't save his best ideas for Napalm Death. And his guitar playing is ferocious, on the level of his best Napalm work. Donald Tardy totally destroys his drums on this, finding that overwhelmingly pummeling yet minimal sound that few drummers seem to master. Teamed up with a drum machine on some tracks, he manages to make the pairing work, using the metronomic effect of the machine to unleash off-time compliments and accents. Lastly, Trevor Peres absolutely kills on the mic. I prefer his death growl to his clean shout, though the latter is adequate. I just enjoy his death vox more.

Highlights include the crushing "Famine Sector," one of the best industrial metal tunes ever written. "A Furred Grave" features Peres's alternating vocals to their best effect and "Day of Conceiving" is a vicious bit of punishing slow-grind. The final track, "Sea of Tranquility," really brings the industrial influences into stark relief -- a 14 minute long dirge comprised entirely of alienating ambient loops, simplistic drum machine patterns, and feedback noises.

I'm not sure who produced this record, it sounds like Colin Richardson to my ears, but regardless, it is rich and full with the expert separation of sound so vital to records of this sort. You can hear every texture, from the guitar riffs and drums, to the electronic samples so clearly audible yet buried in the various layers -- and the album is well-layered, generating a massively depressive atmosphere appropriate to an industrial death metal album. Embedded conjures frightening images of decaying, abandoned factories and roving gangs of post-apocalyptic mutants seeking human sacrifice. It is industrial death metal done right and it's a shame the band never managed to reconvene with this line-up.

Interesting - 70%

Vim_Fuego, August 6th, 2004

Side projects are a bit of a mystery sometimes. It is understandable musicians may want a break from their main gig, and have the chance to create something different. Mike Patton and Jello Biafra for example have turned their hands to a number of projects over a wide range of musical styles. What is harder to understand though, from the perspective of someone not actually in the band, is why a band member would want to do something not far removed from their usual band's sound. Mitch Harris' impressive side project is within spitting distance of grind legends Napalm Death.

Meathook Seed's sound on 'Embedded' could best be described as a cross between Napalm Death and Godflesh (anyone with Attention Deficit Disorder can stop reading now because this is the most important point of the review). Think of half paced Napalm Death with a few heavy–duty industrial rhythms thrown in, or a faster Godflesh with more vocal variety and a real drummer thrown in from time to time.

The sound is fucking huge, and it's not surprising. Harris' partners in noise were Donald Tardy and Trevor Peres from Obituary. The noise produced is tremendous, equal parts mountainous Death Metal and sludgy Grind. Overlaying the carefully calculated racket are tormented vocals, sometimes a shade Barney Greenway, other times Justin Broadrick.

The songs really do little to distinguish themselves from one another. That's not to say they all sound the same, but are of an equal standard, with none of the tracks noticeably better or more memorable than the others.

Closer "Sea Of Tranquillity" is the only real departure from the formula of rest of the album. It is a dark ambient/trance piece, incorporating celestial choirs, Gregorian chants, sampled drums, drones and other electronic wizardry.

'Embedded' is by no means essential or original. It is a powerful release, and most fans of Napalm Death and Godflesh would not think it out of place in their collections. However, they might not revisit it too often.

Good, unknown, and old school. - 83%

mutiilator, April 29th, 2004

I abhor 99% of Death Metal. But when something metal is labeled with the term "industrial" in its genre, i almost feel inclined to check it out. Meathook Seed started off as a side project between two of the most influencial death/grind bands to exist: England's Napalm Death (unfortunately not with Lee Dorrian and Bill Steer though), and U.S.'s Obituary. Eventually the Obituary members bowed out and were replaced.

The music is pretty simple. Basic melodic metal/thrash riffs are paired up with tight drumming that varies from slow and menacing, to fast and hard. Trevor Peres' vocals are excellent. Not too gutteral, and laced with mic effects. The aspect which separates it from most of the dreck that pours out of the death metal genre is the added programming and synths. Cold, metallic, mechanized synths, derived straight from the old school industrial sound along the lines of Skinny Puppy and Front Line Assembly. It is not overdone, and not at all cheesy. This adds to the greatness of the music, instead of ruining it. As well, some of the songs include well-programmed drum machine, rather than live drums. But this, too, does not take anything away from the music, but also contributes to the cold feel of some of the tracks. The album finishes off with "Sea of Tranquility", a 14-minute opus, metal-free. Strange industrial and ambient sounds are coalesced and form an strange epic instrumental piece. A creepy end to a great album.

Embedded is nothing too brutal, and deals more with themese like regret and utter hate, rather than gore, shit, and dumb kiddie stuff like that. But if you like older sounding death metal with some thrashy riffs and a great industrialized sound, this album is a diamond in the rough.