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WTN > Rotting in Pestilence > Reviews
WTN - Rotting in Pestilence

Rotting in obscurity, and for good reason - 52%

autothrall, October 1st, 2012

Beyond the livestock slaughterhouse and the corporeal body itself, blood & guts have rarely manifest themselves so often as in the field of death metal music; and Razorback Records has long been a sanctuary for the campier side of schlock and gore, to the extent that they've often been criticized for taking it all too far, a one trick pony. Hogwash. The late WTN ('War Torn Nation') is probably one of the more obscure acts to have spent time, a Singaporean act whose career consisted primarily of a series of splits, a snazzy anthology featuring Dennis Dread artwork, and this one, bizarre full-length Rotting in Pestilence, which honestly looked like a pretty damn good time. How do you go wrong with a shambling corpse depositing another into a graveyard while an undead tree cheers over your shoulder?

Well, WTN unfortunately didn't 'go right' with it, and this is a fairly inconsistent debut mashing up elements of death metal and grind in fairly even measurements. A huge part of the problem with Rotting in Pestilence is its poor sense of pacing. There's quite an array of material here, 48 minutes being somewhat swollen for an album of this type (though some of the duration is attributed to 'dead' space' in the closing track), and yet the band has front-loaded it with most of the least interesting material. The instrumental title track is a 4 minute slog of dour Bolt Thrower melodies and thuggish, dull riffs that sets up a series of briefer tunes that involve more of the straight, cheerless blasting I've come to expect from this genre. In fact, it's the 'grind' side of Rotting in Pestilence which provides its weakest. Though I'm quite picky in general for the niche, most of the uptempo guitar progressions here are naught more than the same tired punk chord combinations being played at an accelerated rate with nothing interesting or unexpected coming through in the note selections. You heard a lot of this on Napalm Death's Scum, or that albums peers in the late 80s/early 90s, and what presents itself here goes no further.

The production is also a bit muddied, with an overbearing car crash guitar tone and sewage factory swill bass lines kept somewhat raw and basic; don't expect the more refined and intense savagery of their countrymen Wormrot. Occasionally they'll go into these colon rupturing muted sequences at higher speeds where they really start to shred flesh in a pleasing way, but even there the actual notes chosen fail to compel. The drums are rather too tinny up against the bulk of the guitars, I understand this is often done on purpose to create that quasi-Carcass appeal of the late 80s, but they really lose a lot of power as a result, and the guitars are left to just drown everything. I did enjoy the band's sporadic and freakish use of zipping, eerie leads that bounce all over the mix unexpectedly, especially where they'll be used to offset a deeper groove, but when it comes to the stock riffing, the band is sadly average. Vocals are a mix of ghastly gore gutturals and ripping snarls that dwell percussively in the meat of the guitar, but not distinct enough in terms of inherent rhythm to save the music.

Where the Singaporeans become more interesting is where they experiment, in particular the closing cut "Into the Light With Blood" which features most of the better riffs on the disc, including some frilly, frightful melodies that create an interesting spectral presence before the metal fades out, later replaced by what is more or less a dark ambient/horror soundscape which sounds really noisy and raw. I actually dug this a lot, and I liked how raw the application of other samples felt in other tracks, but unfortunately this is wedged into the end of the record, after a cover of "I Work for the Streetcleaner" featuring Mark Sawickis himself of Impetigo. It's a decent rendition, predictable more thrash-based than the band's originals, but I'm not a huge fan of those Illinois cannibals to begin with, so it was somewhat lost on me.

Ultimately, Rotting in Pestilence is hardly one of Razorback's more entertaining efforts. The band's locale might seem novel and exotic, but most of the ideas on this debut are undeveloped and just not that creepy or memorable. The lyrics are decent, primarily spun out of the old Carcass ideas of clinical, gore-flooded imagery, albeit with a more horror/supernatural infusion. The album also doesn't sound much like it looks (except for rare exceptions in the leads), which was a disappointment as I was expecting something more consistently atmospheric.