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Stabwounded - 93%

Tofumanchu, January 27th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2004, CD, Relapse Records

Even to those accustomed to Necrophagist via the previous 'Onset of Putrefaction', this album redefines what is humanly possible with a guitar. Rapidfire ultra-complex progressive grinding death metal is punctuated with slick sweeps, arpeggios and legato note flurries to pinpoint accuracy. Rich, expansive, fluidic, melodic neo-classical solos and fills are widespread, maintaining velocity through more subdued parts. This is trademark territory for the band's main man Muhammed Suicmez, but opting for a non-silicon-based drummer is not the only significant and positive change.

There are a number of areas in which 'Epitaph' is stronger than its predecessor. Overall, the tautness, clarity and aggression are phenomenally consistent in execution. The solid growling vocals are more impressive and in the early Sinister style. The bass guitar sounds more integral, although it retains its high frequency bias for those bubbling fills. The drum performance is imaginative and precise, with delightful purring kicks in spite of obvious triggering. There is a greater use of disjointed riffage, panning, dissonance and alteration of mood, together with some exciting polyrhythmic interplay between Suicmez and Muenzner (such as the symbiotic bending dirge and sombre majesty of Ignominious and Pale). The new recruits have risen to Suicmez's challenge, strengthening rather than stifling creativity.

From the blast-saturated Stabwound to the album highlight (Symbiotic in Theory with its Martyr style intro and astonishing spasms of violent dexterity) the listener is shellshocked by a precision-engineered battery of frequencies that are surprisingly tangible due to the clean-cut production; there is no need to cultivate an essence of darkness or evil, as the surgical aural assault triggers emotions at a more elemental level. Only The Stillborn One has moments of genuine ambience, with delicate sorrowful fluttering notes and its funereal syncopated crunching over out-of-phase drumming.

Guitar leads usually run riot over simpler mid-paced thrash or thick chord progressions. It would be interesting to hear leads backed by full velocity rhythmic backing, though perhaps it was decided that this would tip the music over the edge into incomprehensibility. Clarity is at the forefront of the band's requirements after all - they want all the detail to be heard and dissected. Brutality is in the eye of the beholder and 'Epitaph' is the closest we'll get to experiencing the winds of Saturn stripping the flesh clean from your bones!

[originally written for Diabolical Conquest webzine]